Victory comes, but Braves, McCann still struggle at the plate

ATLANTA -- A second cortisone shot got Brian McCann back in the Braves lineup for consecutive 1-0 victories over Colorado on Wednesday and Thursday at Turner Field.

But the former all-star catcher will be watching from the dugout again tonight when Atlanta opens a weekend series in New York with left-hander Jonathan Niese on the mound for the Mets.

Hampered at the plate by a damaged right shoulder, McCann has been reduced to platoon status with David Ross and that's if he is available to play at all.

McCann heard boos after he popped out with the bases loaded in third inning against the Rockies and he was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts after going 0-for-4 with a strikeout the previous night.

In the two games, McCann left seven runners on and is now batting .224. That is as painful as his shoulder feels when he reaches for an outside pitch.

"I'm going to pick my spots with him," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of his plans for McCann going forward. "I'll give him more regular rest and try to get him through the year. It's going to take a month off to really get better and we don't have that."

Ross will catch against left-handers, with the left-handed hitting McCann playing against most right-handers.

"That is where we are right now," Gonzalez said.

McCann has a cyst and frayed labrum in his right shoulder and received his second cortisone shot in less than a month on Saturday. After three games off, the results haven't been any better at the plate.

Almost all the Braves hitters are struggling, especially with runners in scoring position. But the pitching has been just good enough to keep them in line for a wild-card playoff spot.

Tim Hudson (14-5) followed Mike Minor's seven-inning shutout effort with one of his own as the Braves completed a 4-3 homestand by going 3-1 against the Rockies.

The only run Thursday came when Colorado starter Jhoulys Chacin (2-5) dropped a throw back to the mound in the second inning and it was the first time in franchise history that the Braves won back-to-back games on unearned runs.

It looked like McCann had gotten back on track when he hit .296 with nine home runs and a 1.059 OPS in July. But he batted .181 without an extra-base hit in August and he is now 0-for-12 in September.

Gonzalez, though, insists he feels that McCann can still be productive down the stretch if he isn't overused.

"I think he's closer (to coming out of it) than he thinks he is," said Gonzalez, mentioning that McCann showed his frustration after lining out to left field in the second inning.

If Juan Francisco hadn't just alertly scored from third base on Chacin's miscue, that would have been a sacrifice fly, Gonzalez said he reminded his struggling hitter.

But you can see why McCann so wanted an RBI. He has had just one since Aug. 6. It was the next day that he had the first cortisone shot. Maybe the second will eventually help finally get him going. There isn't much time left.