Cox tweaks lineup for finale
Blanco leads off, while Francoeur moved to seventh
ARLINGTON -- When Braves manager Bobby Cox was asked about his altered lineup for Thursday afternoon's series finale against the Rangers, he indicated the changes were temporary. But he also had plenty of reasons to put Gregor Blanco in the leadoff spot and drop Jeff Francoeur lower in the lineup than he previously had been this season.
"Just changing it around a little bit," Cox said. "With the [designated hitter], you can do this. ... It's just for today."
While batting eighth or ninth over the previous six games, Blanco had recorded eight hits in 20 at-bats and registered a .455 on-base percentage. His surge during the past week at least gave Cox reason to put him in the leadoff spot in place of Yunel Escobar, who has hit .283 with a .356 on-base percentage since moving there on a regular basis on May 13.
"[Blanco] can bunt and he'll take a walk," Cox said. "He's done a real good job."
Although Cox didn't say it, he easily could have said Blanco has done a real good job against right-handed pitchers. However, the young outfielder has struggled against lefties. Entering Thursday, Blanco was hitting .184 (7-for-38) against southpaws and had recorded just two hits in his previous 22 at-bats against them.
With this in mind, Blanco won't likely be in the leadoff spot when the Mariners start left-handers Erik Bedard and Jarrod Washburn in the first two games of this weekend's series at Turner Field. Escobar, who has hit .333 with a .429 on-base percentage in his past 10 games, still is more than capable of handling the role.
While Blanco's hot bat moved him to the top of Thursday's lineup, Francoeur's struggles -- evidenced by the .221 batting average he'd compiled in his previous 31 games -- led to him dropping into the seventh spot. The 24-year-old right fielder had never batted below the lineup's sixth spot this year.
Although he's collected 100 RBIs both of the past two seasons, Francoeur has been everything but a consistent run producer. He's hitting .226 (19-for-84) with runners in scoring position and has just two hits in 18 at-bats with the bases loaded.
Unfortunately for Francoeur, those particular statistics actually don't paint an accurate picture of the struggles he's encountered during most of the season. He actually had five hits in his first 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position. In addition, since April 24, he has gone hitless and recorded just two RBIs in 14 at-bats with the bases full.
Cox also chose to give Brian McCann a rest on Thursday afternoon and use Mark Teixeira as his designated hitter. Although Corky Miller has been serving as the primary catcher for Friday's scheduled starter Jorge Campillo, McCann is expected to get just this one day of rest.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.