The Atlanta Braves have been decimated by injury all season long, losing the likes of Johnny Venters, Eric O’Flaherty, Ramiro Pena and Tim Hudson to season-ending injuries, and having had Brian McCann, Evan Gattis, Jason Heyward, Jordan Schafer, B.J. Upton, Justin Upton, Brandon Beachy and Paul Maholm all on the DL for extended periods of time.
And now the worst may have come for the Braves. In last night’s game against the New York Mets, Jason Heyward was hit in the face by a pitch from Jonathon Niese. The impact broke Heyward’s jaw in two places, and he now faces a stint on the DL for four to six weeks.
The injury could not have come at a worse time for the Braves. For the past few weeks their lineup has been firing on all cylinders, due in large part to Heyward’s work setting the table at the top of the order.
Since being moved to the leadoff spot on Jul. 27, Heyward has posted a .345 BA, hitting five homeruns and driving in 15 in a 21 game stretch. It is no coincidence that the Braves are 17-4 in that span, and have expanded their lead in the NL East to a staggering 15 games. Thus, the injury to Heyward comes as quite a blow.
The Braves may look to Todd Cunningham to fill Heyward’s roster spot, or they may dip into the market of players who have now cleared waivers. It is likely that Schafer will now get significantly more playing time in the outfield and be responsible for manning the leadoff spot; he has proved more than capable all season long, posting an above .300 BA for much of the season.
Heyward will be nearly impossible to replace considering his recent performance, but if the Braves are able to absorb another loss like this and not miss a beat, it will be a surefire sign that this team is World Series ready. How the rest of the season plays out for the injury-riddled Braves remains to be seen.