Not much has gone right for the Atlanta Braves for the past three weeks, but things might finally be starting to take a positive turn.
After ending a season-high six-game losing streak, the Braves will try to win back-to-back contests for the first time since the start of the month as they continue their series with the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday.
Atlanta (33-35) won five straight from May 18-22, but has since gone 7-14. Heading into Friday’s series-opening contest against Los Angeles (41-27), the Braves also learned they would be without hot-hitting Chipper Jones.
Jones, who leads the majors with a .414 average and has a team-high 15 homers, fouled off a pitch during batting practice that ricocheted off the crossbar at the top of the batting cage and struck him under his eye.
Results from a CT scan were negative, and manager Bobby Cox expects the third baseman to return to the lineup.
“When he came back, he said ‘I’m ready to pinch-hit if it goes extra innings,’” Cox said. “But with head injuries and eye injuries, you can’t do it. It’s got to be checked. But nothing’s broken, so he’s good to go tomorrow.”
The Braves didn’t need their slugger to end their six-game skid on Friday as rookie outfielder Gregor Blanco went 3-for-4 with a career-high three RBIs for a 5-2 win over the Angels.
“We’re a team, and it’s not always going to be Chipper Jones,” Blanco said. “Each day everybody tries to do something for the team. Tonight it was me… and the bottom of the lineup. Tomorrow it will be somebody else.”
The Braves will try to win consecutive games for the first time since June 2-3, and improve on their league-worst 8-24 road record. Atlanta has not won back-to-back road games since April 17 and 25.
Los Angeles lost for the third time in 12 games and had its AL West lead reduced to 4 1/2 games after Oakland won at San Francisco on Friday.
The Angels, though, were boosted by the return of third baseman Chone Figgins, who went 1-for-2 with two walks on Friday after completing his second stint on the disabled list with an injured right hamstring. The ailment had sidelined him for 33 of the previous 34 games.
“I think it’s gonna make us a productive team when he gets settled into his game,” manager Mike Scioscia told the Angels’ official Web site.
On Saturday, Figgins will play behind Ervin Santana (8-2, 3.01 ERA), who goes for his fourth win in his last five starts at Angel Stadium, where he has a 2.27 ERA in five starts overall.
Pitching at Oakland on Sunday, the right-hander came away without a decision after allowing two runs and seven hits while striking out a season high-tying nine in 6 1-3 innings of Los Angeles’ 7-3, 12-inning loss.
Santana is 5-4 with a 4.22 ERA in 12 career interleague games, losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers at home on May 17.
He has never faced the Braves, but Teixeira is hitting .222 (4-for-18) with a homer and six RBIs lifetime versus the Angels pitcher.
The Braves, meanwhile, are expected to call up Charlie Morton from the minors to make his major league debut against Los Angeles. The 24-year-old right-hander is 5-2 with a 2.05 ERA in 12 starts and 13 games for Triple-A Richmond.