Braves must win without Chipper

The Braves have to snap out of this funk, and Chipper Jones cannot be the answer.

There is absolutely no reason to explain why the Braves can't win with Chipper Jones out of the lineup. It's one of those odd, weird things in baseball that you just don't have an answer for.

Perhaps opposing pitchers have a different strategy with Jones out. Perhaps the others in the Atlanta lineup just aren't as comfortable with Jones out. Perhaps it's just a coincidence and there is no explanation.

Including Saturday's loss to the Nationals, the Braves are 19-5 when Jones has been in the starting lineup. When he's out, and he's really out now, the Braves have gone 7-17.

It shows you how important a 40-year-old can be for a team, and it also has to scare you about what's to come now with Jones on the disabled list.

We knew it would happen at some point this season. Jones has tried his best to stay out there, but a line drive that made his leg look as bad as human flesh can look (and probably feel) was enough to force him out for a while.

This has been a horrible week for the Braves. They've now lost six in a row, lost their first place lead, and now they've lost Jones. But there was no way Jones, who has done everything possible to stay off the DL, was going to avoid it for six months. So this was inevitable. It's just bad timing. It happened right when Brian McCann got a virus, and right when Freddie Freeman can't see, and right when the rotation had a big hiccup.

Yes, the Braves have scored only 16 runs in this six-game losing streak, but the starting pitchers' ERA this week has been 6.00. Not many teams are going to win being outscored an average 6-to-2.67 per game.

It didn't help to be in that band-box the Reds call a stadium. But there's no excuse. The Atlanta starting pitchers must do better. If Brandon Beachy wants to be an ace, he needs to start by stopping this losing streak Sunday night and salvage one game against the first-place and improving Nationals.

Let's hope the Braves can somehow get into the Roy Oswalt sweepstakes. The free agent pitcher wants to sign with a team, and he's always said he wanted to play for Atlanta. Adding a veteran like Oswalt would be great, but do the Braves have the financial flexibility to sign someone that won't be cheap?

But for the Braves to survive with Jones gone for a while, they're going to have to get better production from Jason Heyward. Sure, he's 22 and you don't want to put that much pressure on a kid. But this is his third major league season, so when the team needs him to be more than just a contributor, Heyward must answer the call.

Heyward has had a rough May. He's hit .210 this month and had only one multi-hit game. His season average is down to .241. It's not as bad as the .227 he put up last season, but it's trending downward and is all of a sudden a worry. The progress he looked to be making in April has disappeared in May.

The bonehead play he made in right field Saturday did not help matters. Heyward has got to start living up to expectations, or the Jeff Francoeur comparisons are going to get louder and louder.

This is getting ready to be a challenging four weeks for Atlanta. After the Nationals leave town Sunday night, the Braves host the Cardinals (who will want payback from Atlanta's sweep a few weeks ago), then go to Washington and to Miami before starting a run of 15 games against the tough American League East.

Hopefully, Jones can be back when he's due to come off the disabled list June 8. But it might take longer. This will be the Braves' biggest test of the season, and if they don't start winning without Jones in the lineup, this losing streak could be the start of a long, tough stretch.

Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, GA, WHAL Fox Sports 1460 in Columbus, GA and WCOH Fox Sports 1400 in Newnan, GA. Shanks is a columnist for The Macon Telegraph. Email Bill at and follow him on Twitter at

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