Why didn't Kelly Johnson play Monday?

Kelly Johnson helped the Braves win Sunday, but he couldn't even crack the starting lineup Monday.

Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez needs to realize his "mixing and matching" of the lineup is not working. The Braves lost Monday night 5-2 to the lowly Phillies, and the anemic Atlanta offense had just eight hits.

It did not help that Gonzalez left Kelly Johnson out of the starting lineup. Sure, Johnson came into the game in the 9th inning to pinch hit. He struck out, but it is very logical to wonder why Johnson was not in the starting lineup.

Sunday against the Reds Johnson helped the Braves win with a two-run home run. Johnson leads the Braves with five home runs. He is second on the team with 13 RBI. Coming into Monday's game, Johnson had hit .303 (10-33) in his last nine games with three home runs and 11 RBI.

So why was Johnson not in the starting lineup? Was it because he had hit .111 (1-for-9) against Phillies' starter Aaron Harang in his career? Wait, maybe it was because Johnson was hitting only .246 against right-handed pitchers. He's done better this season against left-handers (.333), which continues the trend Johnson has had the last few years.

Maybe those were the excuses. But those are very thin. Fact is, Johnson is one of Atlanta's best hitters, and when the team needs offense it needs to have Johnson in the lineup. When a player has been hot like Johnson, he does not need to be on the bench. Ride him until he slows down.

Gonzalez joked last week that Johnson was playing more than what he had signed up for when he agreed to join the Braves in January. Really? Johnson is only 33 years old. He does not need to be spared a part-time schedule. I would imagine Johnson would want to play everyday if asked. But why should he be asked? He's your hottest hitter, so the manager should play him.

The Braves do not have a great offense. We knew that coming in. But it is not helping that the manager doesn't play his best players. With Chris Johnson out at third base, Kelly Johnson should be getting the majority of the playing time - not Alberto Callaspo.

Will Johnson play Tuesday night? Maybe the manager will spin his bottle and it will tell him to play one of his best players. But why should it even be a topic?

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 e-mail him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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