Jordan Schafer has made the most of his backup role with the Braves this season, and scoring the decisive run on a wild pitch in Wednesday’s 5-3 win against the Mets might have been a prelude to something more memorable.
The speedy outfielder said if a team uses a defensive shift as severe as what the Mets deployed when Brian McCann batted in the fifth inning Wednesday, Schafer is confident he could score on a stolen base.
“If they’re going to let me get that far down,” said Schafer, who was about halfway to the plate when Shaun Marcum threw the fifth-inning wild pitch, with third baseman David Wright playing where the shortstop would normally be. “That’s ridiculous, to play a shift that far. If they’re going to let me get halfway, I don’t think they have much of a chance.”
The pitch was in the dirt and squirted perhaps 10 feet away from catcher John Buck, far enough with Schafer’s lead.
“We had a thing in spring training where a team did that (shift),” Schafer said. “I came back in the dugout and (first-base coach Terry Pendleton) said, if they’re going to play that far over, you can walk down as far as you want. Nobody can get you, so …
“(The Mets) weren’t playing the shift that big at first, and then that pitch they, like, super-shifted and Wright was beyond where the shortstop would be. So I was like, OK, there’s two strikes, maybe he’ll try to throw a breaking ball or something, and it won’t have to get away very far. I mean, I basically could have stolen home, I was so far down. I was just looking for a ball in the dirt, and it happened that pitch.”
Schafer hit .305 with a .402 on-base percentage in 105 at-bats before Thursday, including .329 (23-for-70) with seven extra-base hits (two triples, two homers) in his past 34 games.
“He gives you energy, a guy that can steal a base and go extra bases,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Schafer, whose .408 OBP as a leadoff hitter was fourth-highest in the National League. “Yesterday he scores from third base on a ball that — did that ball even leave the circle? Just barely, and he scored.”
Starters to get extra rest: After playing 56 games in 59 days, the Braves will have three days off in an eight-day span that begins Monday, the latest quirk in their schedule. Manager Fredi Gonzalez plans to keep his starting pitchers in their regular turns, meaning all will get at least one extra day of rest between starts and some will have two extra days.
It’s not ideal, Gonzalez said, “But this time of year, they may need that (extra rest). Get a little breather, instead of skipping somebody and then the one guy who doesn’t pitch, he goes, like, 17 days without pitching.”
The Braves have a three-game weekend series at Milwaukee, then days off Monday and Thursday on each side of a two-game series at Kansas City. Then another day off July 1.
This comes soon after a stretch in which they played 20 consecutive days before a day off June 13.
Durable rotation: When the Braves had rookie Alex Wood start a game in Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Mets, they were the last major league team this season to use a sixth starter, in their 71st game. The Braves went 70 games using only five starters, 10 more than Detroit’s next-high total this season.
It also was the latest the Braves had gone before using a sixth starter since 2000, when they didn’t use a sixth until the 90th game. Atlanta’s rotation that season consisted of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Kevin Millwood, Terry Mulholland and John Burkett.
Ayala rehab assignment: After nearly two months on the disabled list, veteran reliever Luis Ayala started a new rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett and pitched a scoreless inning with one walk in a 3-2 win at Buffalo on Wednesday.
The right-hander was placed on the 15-day DL in late April with anxiety disorder, which he developed after being diagnosed with high blood pressure. Ayala lost significant weight during the early weeks dealing with the condition, and struggled in a brief minor-league rehab assignment last month.
Gonzalez said there was no timetable for Ayala’s return, but that he could possibly be ready after two or three more appearances.