MIL@ATL: Simmons puts Braves on board with solo homer

ATLANTA -- It's Andrelton Simmons Bobblehead Night at Turner Field in the series finale against the Milwaukee Brewers.

It's about the only "bobble" with which the Braves shortstop cares to be associated. But, as he examined it before Thursday's game, it's a pretty good one.

"It's cool," Simmons said. "The dirt is what makes the whole thing, the dirt and the arm sleeve. How many are covered in dirt? I probably just made the diving play and turned the double play right here. It's pretty cool."

From the arm sleeve to the throwing motion, Simmons was very proud of every detail.

Simmons, who has a modest collection of seven or eight bobbleheads -- including Hank Aaron, Dale Murphy, Chipper Jones and B.J. Upton -- which he keeps at his parents' home in Curacao, recognized the magnitude of being immortalized on such a platform.

"It's special. It means I've made it," he said with a laugh. "This is pretty unique. I've got my own bobblehead at the stadium where I always watched growing up. That's pretty cool."

The bobblehead will make a nice addition to the house, which he said has become the viewing place for baseball in his neighborhood.

"My parents' house has become [the place to watch]," he said. "They have a projector. They put it in the backyard. The neighbors come, the family comes. They watch the games, yell, cheer. I don't know if people come every game but every time I call there's somebody there after the game."

Simmons stopped short of promising offensive heroics on his night. His priority is winning the series finale with Milwaukee and taking the series from the Brewers. Then comes making sure that he gets a few bobbleheads to his parents.

"I've been getting quite a few requests," he said. "I have to make sure my mom gets one because my mom, she will kill me if I don't get her one."

Simmons puts defense as top priority

ATL@STL: Simmons starts a double play to end inning

ATLANTA -- It came as little surprise that Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons put the brakes on when asked about hitting two home runs to celebrate his bobblehead night prior to Thursday's series finale with the Milwaukee Brewers at Turner Field.

It's not that he can't go yard -- he has four on the year and 20 for his career -- it's just that Simmons prefers to think more about defense.

"He takes so much pride in defensive stuff. It's nice to see," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. "He loves defense."

Simmons' labor of love paid off last season when he won his first National League Gold Glove and Rawlings Platinum Award as the N.L.'s top defensive player.

While the 24-year-old can be scary with the way he wields the glove, throws darts from almost every conceivable angle, and tracks down balls with almost inconceivable range, he actually scares his manager more with his ferocity upon returning to the dugout following a play he does not make.

"You always see players stamp offensively. You know, they leave the bases loaded, they stamp, they go in there and they throw helmets and break stuff," Gonzalez said. "I've seen him get so upset because he felt like he didn't make a play defensively almost to the same extent that you have to go in there and calm him down because he's going to hurt himself. That's how much pride he takes."

A career .983 fielder, Simmons is fielding at a .987 clip so far in 2014, converting 154 of 156 chances. That's tied for third in the National League, and his two errors are tied for second behind only Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki -- who is perfect in the field. By the way, Tulowitzki comes to Turner Field this weekend.

Gonzalez credits the priority given to defense by Simmons and right fielder Jason Heyward, himself a Gold Glove winner in 2012 -- Gonzalez asserts he would have repeated were it not for his missing 58 games to injury -- for a sign the Braves display in the hallway leading from their clubhouse to the dugout.

It's a list of Braves Gold Glove winners and bears the slogan: "Defense Wins Championships!"

"We put that up this year," Gonzalez said. "It's the first time it's ever been up there because that's what wins. I brought both of those guys out when we put it up. In any sport it takes some effort to play defense. Both him and Jason, you got to see it. You've got to see the same thing I do."

Braves lineup continues to shift as necessary

MIL@ATL: J. Upton hits an opposite-field solo homer

ATLANTA -- Like most teams, the Braves keep track of how many different starting lineups they use over the course of a season.

That number stood at 27 entering Thursday night's series finale with the Milwaukee Brewers.

While 27 different starting lineups in 45 games may seem like a lot, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez is neither alarmed nor expecting the number to slow down any time soon.

"I break that every year," said Gonzalez, with a laugh. "I'm on pace."

While lineup juggling may seem to represent instability, there is a method to the madness, and there are multiple variables such as dealing with injuries while simultaneously trying to avoid the injury bug.

"Sometimes it's due to injuries," Gonzalez said. "It's hard because guys get banged up, and they have days off and you have matchups. I think it's pretty much across the board. [The Brewers] ran out a different lineup yesterday than they did the day before."

If history is any indication, Braves fans should root for as many different lineups as possible, as having more lineups has translated to more wins.

In 2012, Atlanta used 107 different lineups in winning 94 games and a Wild Card berth. In 2013, they used 115 lineups and won 96 games and the National League East Division.

Worth noting

• Catcher Evan Gattis sat out his third straight game as he recovers from a virus that caused him to be a late scratch prior to Tuesday night's game. Gattis took batting practice outside on Thursday and Gonzalez said Gattis would be available to pinch-hit. He should be back behind the plate this weekend.

• Infielder Tyler Pastornicky also harbors hopes of being back by the weekend. Pastornicky, who has been slowed by a calf strain and has been unavailable since Saturday, appeared headed for a fairly quick return, but he suffered a setback taking ground balls on Monday. He took ground balls, ran in the outfield and took BP prior to Thursday's game.

"It's kind of frustrating because you feel like you're ready and you know you have to do what they're saying so you don't hurt it again," Pastornicky said. "I'm just trying to do everything they tell me to do."