Braves still trying to break out of funk
As they spent a portion of Friday afternoon addressing the ridiculous actions of Derek Lowe and Roger McDowell, Braves general manager Frank Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez both spoke about the need for the team to bond together during an embarrassing stretch.
“Hopefully this is a point of the season that will define us and build character,” Gonzalez said.
Approximately 24 hours later, the Braves had lost consecutive games in which they had a lead in the eighth inning or later. But instead of suffering another disheartening decision in Sunday afternoon’s series finale, the Braves managed to regain the lead they’d squandered in the eighth inning and enjoyed their first walk-off win of this young season.
With last year’s Mr. Clutch Brooks Conrad delivering the decisive hit in Sunday’s 6-5 win, the Braves might have created that moment that truly does allow them to turn things around and enjoy one o those extended successful streaks they were flirting with when they entered Friday with wins in five of their previous six games.
But it’s quite obvious that we really don’t know the turnaround point of a season until well, it’s proven that something has indeed been turned around.
Through the first 29 games of this year, the Braves are in better position than they were last year, when they were 12-17 and showing absolutely no signs of life on offense. During their 28th game, Scott Olsen held them hitless through the first seven innings. One night later in Philadelphia, 47-year-old Jamie Moyer created history while tossing a two-hit shutout against the Braves.
Three days later, the Braves began a 39-game stretch during which they would record 29 victories and average 5.7 runs per game. Nobody saw this coming and there was certainly little reason to believe Troy Glaus would be the most valuable player during this stretch. He hit .194 with a .292 slugging percentage in April and then hit .300 with a .614 slugging percentage during the pivotal 39-game stretch.
In other words, there’s still plenty of time for Dan Uggla to do something more than produce the occasional clutch hit. He did provide a hint of encouragement with four hits, including two doubles, in the 12 at-bats he collected this weekend. But it’s about time for him to step up and allow the Braves to feel a little better about the five-year, $62 million deal they gave him in January.
The 39-game stretch that ended the Braves’ woes last year began with a four-game series against the Brewers, who just happen to be in Atlanta tonight to begin a four-game series.
If you only keep tabs on the Braves, you might not feel good about the odds of Jair Jurrjens getting enough run support tonight to beat Yovani Gallardo, who tossed a two-hit shutout against the Braves on April 5 to improve to 3-0 with an 0.96 ERA in five career starts against them.
But since tossing his gem against the Braves nearly a month ago, Gallardo hasn’t been nearly as effective. While posting an 8.86 ERA in the four starts that have followed, he has allowed opponents to hit .380 against him. He has allowed at least four runs in each of those four outings.
Of course the Braves still haven’t given reason for pitchers to feel threatened this year.
While going 5-11 from April 5-21, they batted .225 with a .294 on-base percentage and .356 slugging percentage. While winning six of their past nine games, they have hit .229 with a .299 on-base percentage and .372 slugging percentage.
So there still hasn’t been a dramatic improvement for an offense that needs Uggla and Brian McCann to start showing more consistent power. But heading into the 30th game last year, there also wasn’t much reason to be optimistic about the offense.