CHICAGO -- Braves manager Brian Snitker has likened Ozzie Albies to Jose Altuve by describing them as the best pound-for-pound players in baseball.Over the past few years, Altuve has not allowed his vertically-challenged frame to prevent him from being one of the game's best overall players, regardless of size. Albies
CHICAGO -- Braves manager Brian Snitker has likened Ozzie Albies to Jose Altuve by describing them as the best pound-for-pound players in baseball.
Over the past few years, Altuve has not allowed his vertically-challenged frame to prevent him from being one of the game's best overall players, regardless of size. Albies has provided indication he may have the capability to do the same.
Albies seemed to be everywhere as the Braves opened a three-game set at Wrigley Field with Friday afternoon's 4-0 win over the Cubs. The energetic second baseman made a couple of dazzling defensive plays and extended his recent offensive tear with a pair of doubles, which moved him to a Major League lead with 12 extra-base hits.
"He's going to do something every game to impress you or wow you," Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said. "He's been doing it on both sides of the ball right now. He's at the top of the lineup creating havoc and he's doing a great job."
Braves starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez was in complete control as he limited the Cubs to three hits over six scoreless innings. But things might have unraveled in a different fashion had Albies not shown his tremendous athleticism and prevented Willson Contreras from successfully executing a hit-and-run play in the first inning.
With Contreras at the plate and two outs, Albies was shifted behind the bag. He moved toward the bag as Kristopher Bryant broke from first base. But in a split second, the 21-year-old infielder changed directions moved more than 30 feet to his left and snared Contreras' grounder before throwing to first base to end the inning.
"That was a really good play," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "It was very aware by him, just keeping his eyes on the ball. It just shows you his range."
Albies' tremendous range was truly seen in the fourth inning when he robbed Kyle Schwarber of a leadoff single. The athletic infielder dove to his left, grabbed the sharp grounder that had a 101.3 mph exit velocity quick enough to retire Schwarber who got down the line at 28 feet per second, a foot per second better than the MLB average.
"The rangy plays he made are just something," Snitker said. "He never tries to stop catching the ball."
With leadoff hitter Ender Inciarte mired in a slump that has dropped his batting average to .179 and his on-base percentage to .242, the Braves have gained great value from Albies, who has provided consistent production in the two hole.
Since starting the season 2-for-20, Albies has hit .385 (15-for-39) and constructed a 1.185 OPS over his past nine games. He sparked Friday's decisive four-run fifth with a one-out double, which put him in position to score when Yu Darvish followed with a balk and a wild pitch.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.