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CBSSports.com Senior Baseball Columnist

Weekend Buzz: Braves players dropping as fast as the team's record


First baseman Freddie Freeman (right) is one of multiple Braves to be sidelined this week. (Getty Images)  
First baseman Freddie Freeman (right) is one of multiple Braves to be sidelined this week. (Getty Images)  

ATLANTA -- The Weekend Buzz while you were scheduling graduation party appearances and watching helium-filled balloons drift away into the sky. ...

1. Blood, sweat, no tears and the Braves: Chipper Jones could have been describing a needed remedy for his ballclub, rather than what's currently going on with his badly bruised leg, when he so eloquently explained Sunday what the doctors did to alleviate pressure in the limb that forced him onto the disabled list.

"They made an incision and squeezed all the gunk out of there," Jones said just before the Nationals whacked the Braves again, this time 7-2, running Atlanta's current losing streak to seven games.

Seven days ago, the Braves landed in Cincinnati having taken two of three in Tampa Bay and feeling pretty good about themselves. They led the Nationals in the NL East by 1½ games. And even though Jones took a ball off of his left shin in Tampa, the Braves thought they'd get him back by the second of the four-game series in Cincinnati.

Instead, this is what happened: First game in Cincinnati, Freddie Freeman developed this crazy dry-eye thing in which he suddenly couldn't wear contact lenses, so he couldn't see, so he couldn't play. Second game, catcher Brian McCann couldn't make the starting lineup, stricken with a virus so bad he hasn't appeared in the starting lineup since. Third game, not only was Jones still not back, his leg was so grotesquely bruised, swollen and painful that he wound up on the disabled list.

Meantime, backup catcher David Ross strained his right quadriceps. Atlanta recalled J.C. Boscan from Triple-A Gwinnett on Saturday and manager Fredi Gonzalez immediately installed him into the lineup both Saturday and Sunday.

"Obviously, we're in pretty bad shape as a club with so many injuries and sickness going around," Jones said. "We need live heartbeats around here."

As Texas manager Ron Washington is fond of saying, that's the way baseball go. Besides, the Nationals, who now lead the Mets by 2½ and the Braves by four, are a physical wreck themselves, with eight players on the DL including Jayson Werth, outfielder Michael Morse, catcher Wilson Ramos and closer Drew Storen.

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For the Braves, it's crunch time, and what it comes down to is this: They've got to figure out a way to win without Jones. They are 19-5 with him in the starting lineup this season, 7-18 without him.

"It's frustrating to watch," Jones said. "Somebody's got to step up. Somebody's got to step up and get the big out, get the big hit, make the big play."

Too often, the Braves are laying back. Such as right fielder Jason Heyward nonchalanting a Bryce Harper single in Saturday's loss ... then watching the ultra-aggressive Harper stretch it into a double.

"For him, man, that's how you play the game," Heyward said Sunday. "That's the correct way. He hustled as hard as I've seen in these first two games."

Heyward downplayed the Braves' poor record without Jones, pointing to the fact that it's not just Jones who has been missing over these past seven games.

"The team's just going through a rough time," Jones said. "We've got guys hurt, sick, guys who can't see from here to there. Maybe we'll get everybody healthy, not sick, and to be able to see again, all at the same time, and get on a roll."

Meanwhile, in the dugout, Gonzalez was explaining that he does not know when Freeman will return from his dry-eye syndrome.

"It's a process," the manager was saying. "You've got to get the right mixture of the contacts, the solution, all that stuff."

When it comes to solutions, the Braves right now are all ears. Representatives from two different eyeglass companies are due here in the next day or two to discuss specialty sports goggles with Freeman.

Sometime soon, the Braves hope, they all can see clearly.

2. Bill Caudill, Matt Garza and the Cubs: Wondering what Caudill and Garza have in common? Each was the losing pitcher in what's now tied for the Cubs' third-longest losing streak of the past 40 years, an epic 12-game anchor. Garza was the loser Sunday against Pittsburgh, Caudill was the loser against the Phillies on April 26, 1981. In case there was any question, you can now forget false hope in the honeymoon season of new Cubs' president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer. As one scout said to me Sunday, "They'll trade Matt Garza right now, won't they?" Put it this way: Not soon enough to satisfy the burning desire of Epstein and Co. to overhaul this mess.

3. The lion, the Wizard of Oz and the Red Sox: Absolutely classic tweet from Rays manager Joe Maddon following the near-brawl in Boston on Friday night after Red Sox pitcher Franklin Morales drilled Luke Scott in the leg: "What occurred in the 9th reeked of intent. Was ridiculous, absurd, idiotic, incompetent, cowardly behavior." Which is a far more creative and, yes, honest explanation than Bobby Valentine saying that "maybe it was the Ghost of Fenway Past remembering [Scott] bad-mouthed all our fans and our stadium ... and just directed the ball toward his leg." That ridiculous and absurd statement is in the ballpark of Cole Hamels' admission that he drilled Bryce Harper intentionally a couple of weeks ago.

4. South Side of Chicago, baddest part of town: As the Cubs flailed, the White Sox swept the first-place Indians to move to within 1½ games of Cleveland. And Paul Konerko, the ultimate pro, has regrouped after getting smoked in the eye by a pitch last week to take over the major-league lead with a .399 batting average. He's hitting .565 over his past 13 games. And over his past 10, he's 23-for-36 with five homers and 14 RBIs.

5. Albert Pujols, meet Albert Pujols: You knew he was going to hit. Which is what made his six-week start so incredibly riveting. Now, after the snooze alarm finally shook him awake, Pujols' 22 RBI in May rank tied for fourth in the majors with the Brewers' Jonathan Lucroy, behind the Rangers' Josh Hamilton (28), the Cardinals' Carlos Beltran (27) and the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton (25).

6. Adam Jones, Mr. Baltimore: Everyone loves the fact that the Orioles signed Jones to that six-year, $85.5 million contract. Know how you can tell? Look how widely that Oriole is grinning on the birds' caps!

7. Roy Halladay's sore shoulder: Pitching coach Rich Dubee says he knew Halladay had a "cranky" shoulder before the Phillies removed their ace in the second inning Sunday. Most clubs will tell you that if they suspect their ace might be injured, they absolutely will not send him to the mound. Given the Phillies' checkered history with injuries (Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, etc.), you shudder to think what might be next for Halladay.

8. The Adam Wainwright you knew: Finding his post-Tommy John surgery groove, Wainwright, after beating the Phillies on Sunday, now has surrendered only three earned runs over his past 20 2/3 innings. In four April starts, Wainwright was 0-3 with a 7.32 ERA. In six May starts, he's 4-2 with a 3.00 ERA. Yes, the Cardinals, now running second to the Reds, can use that.

9. Your best odds of catching a home run ball? Cincinnati. When it's hot. The Reds, Braves and Rockies combined to wallop 29 home runs during Cincinnati's homestand. Which, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, is a Great American Ball Park record for a homestand of seven games or fewer.

10. Pray for the Padres and Twins: San Diego now has not scored in 26 innings. Reason your prayers could be answered: They open in Chicago on Monday against the Cubs, losers of 12 in a row. Minnesota had an embarrassing 16 whiffs and 0 walks Saturday against Detroit. Reason your prayers could be answered: They host Oakland beginning on Monday, and the fact that the A's rank last in the AL in runs scored is just the tonic a Twins' pitching staff with the worst ERA in the AL needs.


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