The buzz of Freddie Freeman’s All-Star vote wore off quickly as injuries to the Braves outfield took a nightmarish turn Friday night. A 4-2 loss to the Reds looked like the least of the Braves problems by the time it was over.
The day after Jason Heyward left with a strained hamstring, B.J. Upton went down in center field with a strained adductor muscle in the first inning Friday. His brother Justin Upton departed six innings later after straining his left calf running out a groundball to shortstop.
In a matter of about 26 hours, two games and 14 innings, the entire Braves’ starting outfield was sent to the training room. And Friday’s two injuries came on the heels of news that backup outfielder Jordan Schafer, already on the DL, has a stress fracture in his right ankle and is out at least three to four more weeks.
The Braves recalled outfielder Jose Constanza from Triple-A Gwinnett after the s game just to help them get through the two games before the All-Star break. They plan to announce a corresponding move Saturday when they’ll re-evaluate all three injuries.
“Everybody is going to go through injuries and teams that survive those injuries during the course of the year are going to be there at the end,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “You feel pretty good that we can survive those injuries. We have to survive it. It’s our turn.”
The Braves were hoping to get through the weekend with Reed Johnson starting for Heyward and both Joey Terdoslavich and Tyler Pastornicky backing up. Johnson, Terdoslavich and Pastornicky made up the outfield at the end of Friday’s game.
Pastornicky had played only three games in his professional career in center field - all with Gwinnett – before entering the eighth inning in center field Friday night.
“Unfortunately it goes that way sometimes,” B.J. Upton said of the injuries afterward. “We’re a good enough ball club to get things done and luckily we have the All-Star break coming up to get some guys some rest.”
Friday was the second straight game in the series when the Braves gave up multiple first-inning runs and lost an outfielder early. This time they couldn’t recover.
The Reds jumped on Kris Medlen for three runs in the first inning, which took a sour turn after Upton got hurt on a diving attempt at a Todd Frazier line drive that went for a triple.
“With the backdrop, it’s tough to see sometimes and when I dove for it, it was a lot higher than I thought it was,” Upton said. “I think if I could have seen it a little bit better we probably wouldn’t be dealing with this situation right now.”
And his situation?
“It’s not too bad,” B.J. Upton said. “I think it’s just sore from the initial hit but we’ll give it a nice rest and see how I feel tomorrow.”
Justin Upton was hoping to stay in the game after feeling his left calf cramp up about halfway up the first baseline on his groundout in the seventh. But the Braves removed him from the game for further evaluation.
“My calf locked up on me halfway down the line,” Upton said. “It’s calmed down. It’s a little sore. We’re kind of going to play it by ear tomorrow.”
Medlen had given up three hits and a walk to the first four batters he faced, including a two-run single to Brandon Phillips. Medlen coaxed a double play from Jay Bruce but then gave up Frazier’s triple off Upton’s glove.
“It’s the same mechanical issues I’ve really dealt with all year,” said Medlen, now 6-9 with a 3.64 ERA. “I’m not giving up many hits on my change-up. It’s been all my fastball with location. I’ve been pulling off. I’m trying to make adjustments and when it comes down to in the game, making the adjustments stick, it just hasn’t got there for me.”
Medlen took his second consecutive loss while lasting only four innings. He gave up four runs on nine hits and left the bases loaded with nobody out for rookie reliever Alex Wood in the fifth inning.
Wood gave up a sacrifice fly to the first batter he faced but it would be the first of an impressive 10 straight batters he retired in 3 2/3 innings of relief. Wood walked Frazier in the eighth on his 57th and final pitch of the night.
“Alex Wood did an unbelievable job,” Medlen said. “I’ve been in that situation a few times in my tenure here. I think the last time somebody came in with the bases loaded out of the bullpen against Cincinnati, it was in Cincinnati, and it was me and I gave up a grand slam. I told him that afterwards.”
The Braves didn’t mount much against Reds veteran Bronson Arroyo. Medlen and Justin Upton accounted for the only hits off him – a pair of singles – through the first six innings. Brian McCann broke up his shutout with a solo home run in the seventh, his fifth home run in 22 career at-bats against Arroyo.
The Braves rallied with a run off closer Aroldis Chapman and his triple-digit fastball in the ninth on an RBI single by Freddie Freeman but McCann lined out softly to end the game.