video thumbnail

BAL@ATL: Simmons collects three hits, homers vs. O's

ATLANTA -- When Andrelton Simmmons arrived for the start his first big league Spring Training this year, there was no doubt he was the most gifted shortstop the Braves had developed since Rafael Furcal. Less than two years removed from college, the primary questions surrounding him were his offensive skills and mental makeup.

Two weeks into his Major League career, he is showing potential with his bat and displaying the kind of legitimate confidence that indicates the mental side of his game might be every bit as impressive as his glove.

Instead of being burdened by the first error of his career, Simmons maintained his focus and delivered a two-run sixth-inning home run that allowed the Braves to snap a four-game losing streak with a 4-2 win over the Orioles on Friday night.

"You try not to try too hard, but it's in the back of your head," Simmons said. "You try to cover your mistakes. You're still trying to help the team win. But that error for me, I feel like I've got to make good plays behind the pitchers or get on base to try to get runs somehow."

Simmons' second big league home run highlighted the second three-hit night of his young career and enabled him to erase the damage he had created when he hurried a throw that sailed too high for Martin Prado to grab while making his first start of the season at first base.

"[Simmons is] a pretty solid guy," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He's not going to let that kind of stuff rattle him. It's nice to see him swing the bat and make some plays defensively too."

Two innings after making the errant throw that led to a two-run second inning against Tommy Hanson, Simmons drilled Orioles starter Brian Matusz's 1-0 fastball and the watched it sail too high for any of the Orioles outfielders to reach before it fell just beyond the left-center-field wall.

Simmons' two-run home run, combined with 3 1/3 scoreless innings from three relievers (Chad Durbin, Kris Medlen and Craig Kimbrel), enabled the Braves to win for the first time in five games and snap the five-game winning streak the Orioles carried into the contest.

Having totaled six home runs in 1,039 career plate appearances at the Minor League level, Simmons certainly is not known for his power. In fact, the 22-year-old shortstop from Curacao is really not recognized for any of his offensive capabilities. But through his first 12 Major League games, he has compiled two three-hit games and a .333 batting average.

"It's not surprising if I'm feeling that good at the plate because I'm seeing the ball really well and I'm not missing my pitches," Simmons said. "If I'm feeling like this, I'm expecting to see results."

Jack Wilson further fueled the three-run sixth inning with his first triple in more than two years. That set the stage for Michael Bourn to produce an insurance run with a two-out single that snuck through the middle of the infield. The Braves had recorded just three hits in their previous 29 at-bats, dating back to the start of play on Monday.

Simmons' first error was charged after he ranged to his right to make a nice stop of Mark Reynolds' grounder. Instead of taking his time, he quickly rose to his feet and hurried a throw while conscious of the fact that Prado was still moving toward the first base bag. The error proved costly when Wilson Betemit followed with an RBI triple that put him in position to score on Steve Pearce's sacrifice fly.

"Not every error is frustrating, but that one is certainly one where I had time," Simmons said. "There was no reason to make that error. I tried to time Prado's run to the bag and threw it too slow. It kept carrying in the air. I should have just made a strong throw and got the out. But I learn from mistakes. I'll try to not do that again."

The error was one of the few blemishes of an otherwise spectacular defensive performance by the Braves. Dan Uggla began the game with a diving stop of Brian Roberts' sharp grounder and both Matt Diaz and Bourn made diving catches in the outfield. With Freddie Freeman nursing his sore left hand, Prado and Eric Hinske both started double plays while manning first base.

"I needed it tonight and [the defense] picked me up big time," said Braves starting pitcher Tommy Hanson, who managed to allow just two runs while issuing a season-high six walks and allowing four hits in 5 1/3 innings.

Hanson was fortunate to not allow a run after the Orioles loaded the bases with the assistance of a pair of walks in both the second and third innings. Matusz grounded out to kill the first threat and Matt Wieters grounded into a double play to end the third inning.

As Hanson exited after issuing consecutive walks with one out in the sixth inning, he looked toward plate umpire Derryl Cousins, but did not say anything. When asked again after the game about issuing three more walks than he had in any of his previous 13 starts this year, he again chose to bite his tongue.

"My patience was definitely tested tonight," Hanson said. "I got to do a better job of making pitches. Those close ones, maybe next time will go my way."

The Braves and Orioles combined to produce 13 baserunners and just one run through the first three innings. That lone run came courtesy of Brian McCann's two-out solo home run in the first inning. The six-time All-Star catcher has homered in both of the past two games and registered three consecutive multi-hit games to improve his batting average from .234 to .249.

MLB.com Comments