Second guessing Fredi Gonzalez

Fredi Gonzalez's strategy backfired Wednesday night in New York.

The Braves are 8-6 after starting the season 5-0. There is no set lineup, as manager Fredi Gonzalez has talked about how "fun" it is to "mix and match" with the players he has on his roster.

But Wednesday night, there were a couple of reasons to question his strategy.

In the 8th inning, Mets left-hander (and former Braves prospect) Sean Gilmartin got two quick outs and then walked Freddie Freeman and A.J. Pierzynski. Kelly Johnson, a left-handed hitter, was then due up for Atlanta.

Gonzalez then pulled Johnson in favor of right-handed hitting Jonny Gomes. Mets manager Terry Collins then immediately pulled Gilmartin in favor of another former Braves pitcher, Buddy Carlyle, a right-handed pitcher.

Johnson has had more success against left-handed pitchers in his career (vs. LHP - 273, vs. RHP - .242) and this season (.333 vs. LHP, .182 vs. RHP). Gomes has struggled against right-handed pitchers in his career (vs. RHP - .222 - .vs. LHP - .278) and this season (.158 vs. RHP, .500 vs. LHP).

When Gomes faced Carlyle, he popped out to end the inning. Why not just leave Johnson in against a pitcher that was having control issues and against the kind of pitcher he has had more success against instead of putting Gomes in when Gonzalez should have known Collins would counter with a right-handed pitcher to face Gomes?

Also, in Wednesday's starting lineup, Gonzalez had five players - Eric Young, A.J. Pierzynski, Kelly Johnson, Jace Peterson and Alberto Callaspo - that did not start the night before. Young and Callaspo are switch-hitters, while the other three hit left-handed. Dillon Gee, a right-hander, was on the mound for the Mets.

So five players that were in the starting lineup on Tuesday - Chris Johnson, Christian Bethancourt, Jonny Gomes, Cameron Maybin and Phil Gosselin - were all on the bench Wednesday. All five of those players are right-handed hitters.

In the 9th inning, when Gonzalez had to use a pinch-hitter for Brandon Cunniff, he had no choice but to send Chris Johnson in to face Jeurys Familia, a right-handed flamethrower, who struck Johnson out. Johnson is coming off a season in 2013 when he hit .395 against left-handed pitchers and only .231 against right-handed pitchers.

So the mixing and matching of the starting lineup cost Gonzalez late in the game.

What will Thursday's lineup look like? Will the "mixing and matching" continue?

Also, after the game Gonzalez was asked about his bullpen, which has obviously struggled in the last few games. He was asked if the bullpen was taxed.

Gonzalez said, "Taxed? No, these guys haven’t gone three games in a row, that kind of stuff. The bullpen has been used the right way."

The Braves have played 14 games. Cunniff, a rookie, has pitched in nine games. Veteran Jim Johnson, who is struggling mightily, and rookie Cody Martin have pitched in eight games. While Luis Avilan has pitched in seven games.

Yes, the bullpen is getting taxed a bit. The starters definitely need to go deeper in games, and that will hopefully happen as the season progresses, but there is no need to disguise what is happening in the bullpen. Those guys are being used a lot to start the season.


Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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