Andrelton Simmons is back on one of his home-run binges: He’s hit three home runs in five games, including two in a row over the weekend. His game-tying two-run shot off Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon Saturday night moved him into some elite company.
Simmons has 15 home runs, the fifth-most among shortstops in the major leagues. He’s also tied with Alex Gonzalez (15 in 2011) and Rafael Furcal (15 in 2003) for the most homers hit by a Braves shortstop since Jeff Blauser hit 17 in 1997.
The Braves club record for home runs by a shortstop is 20 by Denis Menke in 1964.
Not bad for a player who’s still somewhat of an unknown quantity offensively.
“How good offensively is to be determined, but if talent and work ethic have anything to do with it, then he’s going to do really good,” Braves hitting coach Greg Walker said. “Because he’s talented and he works like crazy.”
Walker said Simmons’ natural tendency is to swing around the ball, which gets him a lot of groundballs to the left side. But when he’s focusing on hitting through the ball, that’s when he gets results like those lately. It’s something Walker said Simmons has worked on “tirelessly” throughout the season. Simmons said lately he’s been able to take that work to the batter’s box.
“I’ve finally been seeing it and feeling it while I’m doing it,” Simmons said. “I’ve had flashes where it was going well and then it would go away and then I would get it again and it would last for a little longer. I’m hoping this time it stays.”
Simmons had hit only six home runs in his three minor league seasons and three home runs in 49 games last year in Atlanta. Now he trails only J.J. Hardy (25), Troy Tulowitzki (22), Ian Desmond (20) and Hanley Ramirez (16) among major league shortstops.
He believes he’s just scratching the surface.
“My game is still not defined,” Simmons said. “I still have room to grow. I still have a lot to learn. I’m going to get stronger. I’m going to get smarter. And I’m going to learn a lot of tricks from this game still, so just got to stay healthy and only God knows what’s to come.”
Downs update: Reliever Scott Downs doesn’t think his fractured right ring finger will keep him off the mound long, given the injury is to his non-pitching hand. Downs was wearing a splint on the finger in the Braves clubhouse Sunday but said he still had decent flexibility bending it.
“It’s just going to be a matter of being able to put it into my glove and be able to catch and protect myself,” Downs said. “It’s not going to affect the way I throw. Hopefully once the swelling goes down, tape it up and see how it goes. I don’t plan on missing a lot of time …
“I wish I knew if it would be today, tomorrow or whatnot, but we’ll have to see just how the treatment goes and go from there.”
Downs wasn’t quite sure where and how Chase Utley’s comebacker got him on the tip of his ring finger on his glove hand in the sixth inning Saturday night, but when he took his hand out of his glove, his finger was bleeding.
“I even went back and looked at film to try and figure out if it hit the back of my glove, the tip. I have no clue,” Downs said. “I just know that when it hit my glove, it got really warm, almost like it exploded or whatever.”
Freeman OK: First baseman Freddie Freeman gave the Braves a scare when he banged his right knee into the wall in foul territory chasing a Kevin Frandsen foul ball during the eighth inning of Sunday’s loss. That’s the same knee that’s given Freeman chronic problems.
Freeman walked gingerly back to first base and was able to finish the game. He later struck out to end the game. Gonzalez said afterwards that Braves trainer Jeff Porter had told him Freeman was fine, but it’s something they’ll continue to keep an eye on.
“It’s one of those things that we’re going to have to just manage a little bit,” Gonzalez said. “And hopefully down the road here, we can give him a couple days (off), but nothing major.”
Freeman first injured his patellar tendon in that knee in 2010 in Triple-A Gwinnett and then hurt it again in spring training last year, subluxing his knee cap. Freeman sat out a game Aug. 29 to rest his knee, snapping a streak of 36 consecutive starts.