It seems that every time Jordan Schafer gets in a good groove, the Braves outfielder gets hurt.
Schafer was a late scratch from the lineup for Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Mets because of a bruised quadriceps that he suffered after fouling a ball off his left thigh as a pinch-hitter Tuesday night. The speedster was out of the lineup Tuesday after leaving Monday’s game with back spasms.
Schafer had four hits and stole three bases in Monday’s win against the Mets, the first Braves player to steal three in a game since Willie Harris in 2007. His 20 stolen bases accounted for 38 percent of the Braves’ team total before Wednesday, and Schafer had 11 steals in only 19 games since returning from five weeks on the disabled list.
The recently resurgent B.J. Upton replaced Schafer in center field and the leadoff spot Wednesday.
The quad bruise wasn’t considered serious, but Schafer, 27, couldn’t run comfortably when he tested it Wednesday morning. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he should be ready to play Friday. The Braves are off Thursday before they start a seven-game trip to Philadelphia and Miami.
Schafer’s stint on the disabled list that kept him out most of August was for a stress fracture near his right ankle, from another foul ball. Before going on the DL, he hit .312 with a .399 on-base percentage in 125 at-bats over 61 games, including 12-for-33 (.364) with seven RBIs in his last 12 games.
After returning from the DL, he went 3-for-34 with no extra-base hits and 12 strikeouts in his first 10 games while shaking off rust. Then he was 11-for-34 (.324) with seven stolen bases in his next eight games before the back spasms.
Johnson frustrated: He’s been baseball’s most prolific pinch hitter for the past two seasons, and Reed Johnson hates that he’s still watching from the DL as the Braves try to clinch a division title and home-field advantage for the National League playoffs.
Johnson has been out five weeks with Achilles tendinitis, and this week lingering soreness forced him to stop the daily running he did for more than a week as part of his rehab program. He still hopes to be ready to play by late this month so he can be ready for the playoffs, but he knows time has become an issue.
“It’s really frustrating,” said Johnson, 36. “It’s at that time of the year where I feel like I want to be a part of this. Definitely want to get myself some at-bats before we move into the playoffs. But at the same time, if I continue to do the same things that I’ve been doing in the past, as far as like irritating it every other day and testing it every day, I feel like I’m going to do that for four weeks and be watching the playoffs from home.”
Despite being out more than a month, Johnson’s 11 pinch hits were tied for second in the majors before Wednesday, and his .355 pinch-hit average was the leader. A year ago, he went 18-for-43 (.455) as a pinch-hitter — five more pinch-hits than anyone else.
He has started games at every outfield position this season and has hit .327 in 49 at-bats against left-handers.
Johnson hopes a week or so without running will help calm the tendon. He’s continued to hit and throw without difficulty, but straight-ahead running remains a problem. Watching from the bench has been tough, but he’s has taken one positive outcome from the experience.
“Going through what I’ve been through, I really realized how much I still want to play,” he said.
Kimbrel wins closer award: After pitching 16 1/3 scoreless innings in 16 games and converting all 12 of his August save opportunities, Braves closer Craig Kimbrel was named MLB’s top closer of the month. He held opponents to a .138 average for the month, allowing just eight hits and two walks with 19 strikeouts.
He also won the award in August 2011 and September 2012, making him the fifth pitcher to win it at least three times.
Kimbrel leads the majors with 44 saves in 47 opportunities and has converted 34 consecutive saves during a nearly four-month stretch of 44 appearances in which he’s posted a 0.20 ERA and .138 opponents’ average, allowing one run with 14 walks and 62 strikeouts in 44 1/3 innings.