So … do the Atlanta Braves suck now?
That’s right, Atlanta Braves fans. I heard you. After a nearly historic streak to start the season, the Braves have dropped three of their last four games, and you think they’re going to fail miserably the rest of the season. I’ve already heard it from more than one person. But guess what? When you say that out loud, a Tomahawk-choppin’ kitten dies …
Now is not the time to panic. I’ll have to adjust my season predictions
ever so slightly; instead of finishing 160-2, it’ll be more like 157-5.
I won’t pretend the series in Pittsburgh was pretty. Frankly, my swear jar is looking a little full after the last two games. There was some upside, but what I said the Washington Nationals might do to the Atlanta Braves was done instead by the Pittsburgh Pirates. The same Pirates who apparently still haven’t forgotten Sid’s Slide in ’92 and definitely haven’t forgiven.
I don’t know what they’ve done to PNC Park; every ball hit by the Pirates looked like batting practice, while the Atlanta Braves had to rely on squeaks through the infield to get hits. Well, there was that whole “Are you saying our lines aren’t straight?” thing in game four, but that was just an honest mistake, right?
I mentioned in my last post the Atlanta Braves needed to start playing smaller ball and not rely on moonshots to win games. It’s certainly a lot of fun to watch, but given the choice, I’d rather see well-executed small ball than a home run derby
any most some days. During their three-game stint in D.C., the Atlanta Braves showed some serious patience at the plate. One could easily argue that their late-game comeback in game one was based on key walks, which allowed batters to get key hits. I was impressed. They were executing — moving runners from station to station; getting what was absolutely necessary when they needed it. And the result was not only sweeping the Washington Nationals, but breaking their home win streak and silencing some of the critics who are overly concerned with strikeouts.
And then came the Kansas City Royals.
Tuesday’s game — Jackie Robinson Day, first game after a six-game road trip — looked like it was going to be another “guess I’ll just have five more beers” loss, until Jason Heyward lit the fuse on the Braves’ offense. The ensuing conflagration felt like September to me; a game that’s somewhat meaningless, but critical at the same time. I stood in my living room for the last six outs. But even though the Braves won in impressive fashion, Wade Davis‘ control over the lineup was hard to miss. It wasn’t too surprising to see Jeremy Guthrie stamp out the fire the very next day.
Maybe it’s day games. Maybe it’s cold weather. Maybe it’s just April and teams are still finding their groove.
Whatever the case, the Atlanta Braves saw their weaknesses exploited this past weekend. Their inability to capitalize in the clutch and execute small plays when they needed to ended up being their downfall. They still haven’t been blown out of any game and their monster offense has proved they can get the team back into just about any game. But their at-bats with RISP were dreadful these past four games and particularly striking out with RISP is completely unacceptable.
In any case, at this point in the season, it’s better to know one’s flaws when there is still time to work on them and try to flatten out the kinks, as opposed to later in the year when it’s often too late. Freddie Freeman returns to the Braves’ lineup for today’s double-header, so maybe he’ll provide the right kind of spark as the team heads into Coors Field, also known as every pitcher’s worst nightmare. I expect a hit parade from both sides; I just hope Mike Minor can set the tone and give the Atlanta Braves bats a good chance to lead it.