ATLANTA -- Joey Terdoslavich's pinch-hit, two-out single on Sunday not only gave the 24-year-old rookie his first career RBI, it ended a trying post-All-Star break stretch, during which he had been foiled by changeups on multiple occasions.
That type of tactical adversity is to be expected in a player's first month in the Majors, but with a sweep on the line in front of a national TV audience, Terdoslavich picked quite the time to overcome his off-speed struggles.
Facing White Sox starter Jake Peavy on July 20, Terdoslavich swung through three changeups for an inning-ending strikeout. In his first at-bat the next day, he popped out to second base after seeing nothing but changeups.
Then last Monday, Terdoslavich entered as a pinch-hitter with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh. Mets starter Dillon Gee threw him three changeups, and Terdoslavich came up empty on all three, spoiling an opportunity to turn around a 1-0 deficit.
Like Gee, St. Louis reliever Seth Maness threw Terdoslavich only changeups with two outs and runners on the corners in Sunday's seventh inning. But thanks to a helpful scouting report from hitting coach Greg Walker, and the confidence boost from a pinch-hit double in Saturday's victory, the rookie took the third changeup back up the middle for what proved to be the game-winning run.
"I chased those changeups, and I learned from it and realized they're not going to just pump heaters in there, just because they don't really know me," Terdoslavich said. "They're not going to give me anything good to hit unless I show I can lay off those pitches. I just got a little caught up in the moment in that at-bat [in New York], and then last night I was a little more comfortable and a little more calm and just didn't try to do too much, just took what the pitcher gave me."
In addition to adjusting to the complex challenge of Major League pitching, Terdoslavich is learning that pinch-hitting requires a more sophisticated approach than some light running or stretching to get loose.
He has taken to the mid-game routine of veteran Reed Johnson in recent days, heading into the clubhouse to take some swings and use other baseball activities to warm up for any potential pinch-hit opportunity.
"The last few days I've been hitting off the machine, taking at-bats off the machine and trying to get a good lather going so it feels like I've been playing in the game," Terdoslavich said. "That really made me feel the last couple days that I had been in the game the whole time. We have a TV in there, so I'd been watching the pitcher and who was warming up. Reed's been helping me out a lot, and the scouting reports have been pretty good."
After making a handful of starts during the depths of the Braves' outfield injury woes, Terdoslavich is also gaining an appreciation of the art of pinch-hitting, a role that has helped Johnson carve out a long and successful Major League career.
"When you come off the bench, you're not sure when the day starts who you're going to face, what he's going to throw you or when that is going to be," Terdoslavich said. "One at-bat a night, you can't try to do too much, and I think that's what makes Reed so good, is because watching him take his at-bats, he just takes what the pitcher gives him, and that's what I did last night."
As the Braves head into the stretch run, Terdoslavich has begun to make his case for sticking around, along with Johnson, as two of the team's trusted options in pinch-hitting situations.
Johnson not focused on batting title chase
ATLANTA -- Chris Johnson reached a pair of important milestones in his unexpected march toward the National League batting title last week, passing St. Louis' Yadier Molina for the league lead in batting average with a three-hit night on Sunday, after finally amassing enough plate appearances to qualify.
Still, the Braves' hot-hitting third baseman is not focused on getting into a statistical battle with the Cardinals' All-Star catcher with a division race to win.
"I'm trying not to look at that right now," said Johnson, who was hitting .338 entering Monday night's game against the Rockies, just ahead of Molina's .335 average. "We got two months of baseball left. If I start worrying about getting more hits than him, it's just going to go downhill."
Johnson's .374 average in July is his best month in terms of average in his five-year Major League career, followed closely by the .369 clip he posted in the first month of 2013, when he was platooning at third base with Juan Francisco.
His time in the platoon helped him build up some comfort against left-handed pitchers.
"In my career, that's what usually brought [the average] down," Johnson said. "I wasn't really comfortable facing lefties, but now I enjoy it."
The third baseman has produced from a number of different spots in the order, most notably the No. 8 hole. From that spot, he has made 114 of his 329 plate appearances, hitting .343 with four home runs and 11 RBIs -- production that looks even better given the limited protection that comes from having the pitcher in the on-deck circle.
"If you're hitting eighth, the pitcher's behind you, so you have to know that and know there's certain times when they're not going to give you anything to hit," Johnson said. "I just try to be aware of the game situation, who's hitting behind you, if we're going to pinch-hit for the pitcher, stuff like that."
Johnson hit seventh during the St. Louis series, when he got a chance to pass Molina in person, and he found himself fifth in the order on Monday. Don't expect the third baseman's place in the order or the batting title race to affect his approach when the Braves head to St. Louis in mid-August -- or any other series, for that matter.
"I like being down there," Johnson said. "I feel like I come up in a lot of good opportunities, able to get on base and flip the lineup around, too, get the pitcher out of the way in that inning. I don't mind where I'm at."
Braves place R. Johnson on DL; Cunningham recalled
ATLANTA -- The Braves placed reserve outfielder Reed Johnson on the 15-day disabled list with left Achilles tendinitis after Monday night's game and purchased the contract of Todd Cunningham from Triple-A Gwinnett.
Johnson sustained the injury while running to first base during a pinch-hit opportunity in the eighth inning of Sunday's game. The 13-year veteran has appeared in 66 games this season for the Braves, primarily as a pinch-hitter and defensive replacement, hitting .263 with 11 RBIs in 126 plate appearances.
The switch-hitting Cunningham has posted a .283 average with two home runs and 30 RBIs for Gwinnett and is the No. 8 prospect in the Braves organization, according to MLB.com. While he has played 92 games in center field for Gwinnett this season, Cunningham's speed enables him to cover any of the three outfield positions, if called upon.
• Gonzalez said he expected outfielders B.J. Upton and Jordan Schafer to begin Minor League rehab assignments later this week. Upton has been on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right adductor muscle since the weekend before the All-Star break, while Schafer is dealing with a stress fracture in his right foot, sustained after he fouled a ball of his ankle in late June.
• Left-hander Paul Maholm was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Monday with a left wrist contusion, retroactive to July 21, to make room for Brandon Beachy's return to the rotation. Maholm will be eligible to be activated on Aug. 5.
Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.