Long losing streak has not killed postseason hopes
One horrid nine-game stretch in April does not define the path that a Major League club is destined to travel over the course of a 162-game season. But as the Braves attempt to snap a nine-game losing streak against the Astros tonight, they can’t escape the fact that many are already asking, “are they really this bad.”
Just seven days have passed since I last sat in this Turner Field press box with the belief that a slumbering offense would soon awake and direct the Braves toward a pennant race in September. Yes 47-year-old Jamie Moyer had just baffled the Atlanta bats in a frustrating manner. But such an event is deemed just a bump in the road when the calendar still rests on April 22.
Now on April 30, just 10 days since the Braves constructed their consecutive back-to-back walk-off victories, manager Bobby Cox returned to Turner Field without much reason to laugh. Coming off a winless seven-game road trip, he is among the many who have to wonder if his club’s nine-game losing streak is a fluke or a sign of things to come.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, this is essentially unchartered territory for Cox. The only 10-game losing streak he has experienced during his long managerial career began with a loss to the Astros on June 11, 2006. Horacio Ramirez was drilled in the head with a Lance Berkman liner that afternoon and as the Braves left Houston that afternoon they learned their flight to Ft. Lauderdale would include the bumps caused by a nearby hurricane.
This prompted Chipper Jones to say something like, “The hits keep coming…I suggest staying as far away from the Atlanta Braves as you can now.”
Jones’ playful comment was made at the beginning of a 10-game skid and in the midst of a 23-game stretch that included just three victories.
During that 10-game losing streak, the Braves hit .256 and saw their pitching staff post a 6.10 ERA. Within this current nine-game losing streak,, the Braves have batted .223 and compiled a .188 (12-for-64)batting average with runners in scoring position. The pitchers have posted a 5.20 ERA.
When asked Friday afternoon, Jones said he did not remember the emotions he felt during that 10-game skid from four years ago. But he later said, “I’m pretty sure this club is much better than that one.”
On the charter flight back from St. Louis last night, many of the players dealt with the shock caused by the frustrating road trip. When some mentioned that things needed to change before the front office decided to start making changes, Jones said, “I like the guys on this team far too much to let us reach a point where some of these guys are getting traded.”
During this conversation, Troy Glaus mentioned that the 2002 Angels club that he was a part of started the season with the same 8-14 mark that the Braves carry into Friday night’s series opener against the Astros. That Angels club won the World Series six months later.
Last year there were three postseason participants — Twins (11-11), Angels (9-13) Rockies (9-13) — who didn’t have a winning record through the season’s first 22 games. During the 2007 season, three of the National League’s four playoff participants — Phillies (10-12), Cubs (9-13) and Rockies (9-13) — fell into this same category.
En route to six of their 14 most recent division titles, the Braves had a non-winning record through the first 22 games. But their only losing record within this category came in 2001, when they won 10 of their first 22 games.
Given a chance to face Brett Myers, who is 0-3 with a 6.53 ERA in his past four starts against Atlanta, during tonight’s series opener, the Braves seemingly have a good opportunity to begin this homestand in auspicious fashion.
Because they’ve dug themselves in an early hole, the Braves have made this 162-game journey much more challenging. But at the same time history has shown that one horrible week can’t solely determine where a team stands in October.
Injury front: With an offday on Monday, the Braves plan to push Jair Jurrjens’ next start back to May 8. Jurrjens strained his hamstring during Thursday’s game and was still feeling some tightness on Friday afternoon…Yunel Escobar will be evaluated on a day-to-day basis with his strained left adductor muscle. Escobar has missed 3-5 days when he has battled this injury in the past.