Gosselin gets start at 3B, Johnson rests vs. Eovaldi

MIAMI – Braves rookie Phil Gosselin made his fourth start at third base Saturday, and it was no secret why he was in the lineup.

Gosselin had three hits against Marlins pitcher Nathan Eovaldi in the Braves’ Aug. 31 win, and the Braves faced the right-hander again Sunday. Regular third baseman Chris Johnson was 0-for-12 in his career against the hard-throwing Eovaldi.

“It’s just another spot to put the Goose (Gosselin) in, to get him in the lineup,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “We’ve done it at second base, we’ve done it at third base, and just get him in the action a little bit.”

Gosselin has split second-base duties with Tommy La Stella in recent weeks, playing mostly against left-handers. He was 20-for-64 (.313) with a homer and a .353 on-base percentage in 16 games since he began getting semi-regular playing time rather than just pinch-hitting and playing once a week.

Ironically, Gosselin has actually hit better against righties (.357, 10-for-28) than against lefties (.267, 8-for-30), and La Stella has hit for a higher average against lefties (.316, 18-for-57) than against righties (.247, 59-for-239).

Gonzalez has rarely taken Johnson out of the lineup when healthy, but with the Braves down to their final 21 games and sitting seven games behind Washington in the National League East and a game behind Milwaukee for the second wild-card spot, he seems more willing to make substitutions based on matchups and trends.

Johnson has struggled particularly against some of the harder-throwing pitchers, such as Eovaldi.

“We’ve done that with a couple of other guys, just kind of match up and say, hey, put you in a position where you’re going to be successful,” Gonzalez said.

Johnson was 5-for-33 (.152) with no extra-base hits or RBIs and 12 strikeouts in his past 11 games before Saturday, though he did have six walks in that span including three in the past two games. That’s a lot for a guy with only 21 walks (vs. 144 strikeouts) and a .296 OBP for the entire season.

He lined out twice and walked once in three plate appearances in Friday’s 11-3 loss.

“I thought Chris’s at-bats (Friday) were really good,” Gonzalez said. “When he’s hitting, or any of our right-handed hitters are hitting balls to right-center or right field, I’m thinking that their at-bats are good. You tell those guys that, but they’re looking for results. Like Justin Upton, you tell him those were two good at-bats (Friday), and he looks at you like, yeah, but it’s two fly balls to center field. Just happened to be 418 (feet).”

The towering center-field wall is 418 feet from home plate on the spacious field at Marlins Park.