5/16/2014 8:10 P.M. ET
Braves hope Johnson's hot bat can spur offense
By Joe Harris / Special to MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Even though the Braves fell, 10-4, to San Francisco on Wednesday, Chris Johnson's bat continued to offer encouragement to a team looking for offensive consistency.
Johnson had a pair of RBI doubles against the Giants and hoped to continue his hot hitting as the Braves opened a weekend series at St. Louis on Friday night.
Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez wasn't worried about Johnson's slow start to the season.
"Every good hitter goes through a funk," Gonzalez said. "Miguel Cabrera won a Triple Crown two years ago. I'm sure if you look, there was a time when he went 1-for-12."
Johnson spent most of last season in the thick of the National League batting title race, finishing with a .321 average.
This season, he hit just .230 in April but has picked it up in May. After his 2-for-3 performance Wednesday, Johnson's average was up to .279.
And with Johnson's surge, the Braves' offense is showing signs of life. Johnson has a .455 average over the last six games, in which Atlanta has averaged 3.5 runs. The Braves averaged just 1.5 runs the previous six games.
"I think it's big for everybody to keep going, not just [Freddie] Freeman or Johnson," Gonzalez said. "We've been kind of just hitting on two cylinders every night. Freeman and then you've got maybe another guy, maybe [Andrelton] Simmons will get a base hit or B.J. [Upton] will drive in a run. Not every offense is going to be hitting on seven cylinders or eight cylinders or whatever you want. There's going to be an out in the lineup someplace. Somebody is going to be struggling. We just need to get more of those guys swinging the bat. We need to get those guys hot all together."
Carpenter ready to face team that drafted him
ST. LOUIS -- Pitching against the team that drafted him is nothing new for Braves right-hander David Carpenter, but he might have a new thing or two to show his former teammates as Atlanta started a three-game series against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Friday night.
The Cardinals drafted Carpenter as a catcher in 2006 and converted him to a pitcher in 2008. Carpenter was traded in 2010 to Houston, where he faced the Cardinals for the first time in 2011.
Back then, he was a rookie just trying to establish himself. Now, Carpenter has become a key man out of the Atlanta bullpen, leading the team with 19 appearances this season.
"When I first came up with the Astros, it was just a matter of getting your feet wet and I was still learning how to pitch," Carpenter said. "Learning how to try and work counts and all that type of stuff. I've continued to learn that and just feel a little more confident in my stuff and feel a little more relaxed out there."
Carpenter picked up one of his two wins this season when the Cardinals visited Atlanta on May 6. More recently, he picked up his second save of the season with a perfect ninth inning against the Cubs on Sunday.
Carpenter still remembers playing with current Cardinals such as Yadier Molina, Allen Craig and Jon Jay in the Minors.
"It's fun to get a chance to come back here and reconnect with all the guys, but it's just a matter of going out there and we're not friends when they step into the batter's box," Carpenter said. "It's all about trying to get them out and trying to give our team a chance to win."
• After being given the day off Wednesday, Jason Heyward was back in the leadoff spot in the Braves' lineup Friday.
• With Heyward back in the lineup, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has gone back to batting the pitcher eighth. Friday's game at St. Louis marks the ninth time in the previous 10 games that Gonzalez has batted the pitcher eighth.
"It's a small sample, but it seems like we're scoring some runs, and then the other day we didn't do it, because I gave Jason the day off against [Giants lefty Madison] Bumgarner and it being a 12 o'clock game and we really had only one leadoff guy. We've been leading off Heyward, and [Tyler] Pastornicky becomes your second leadoff hitter in the nine-hole."
• Friday night's starter, Ervin Santana, is making his third career start against the Cardinals. He enters the matchup 1-1 with a 4.73 ERA against St. Louis. This season, Santana is 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA.
• The Braves' pitching staff entered Friday leading the Majors with a 2.76 ERA. Atlanta starters have posted a quality start in 22 of the team's last 28 games.
Joe Harris is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.