Offensive woes are mounting at a disturbing rate
If you’re one of the Braves’ fans who opted to go to bed before rain delayed last night’s fifth inning from starting until 10:50 p.m. ET, you really didn’t miss much. The Braves produced just one more hit over the final five innings of the 4-0 loss to Mets.
Those of you who watched the first four innings probably don’t need to be reminded that they also recorded just one hit in the first four innings against Dillon Gee, who has allowed just one earned run in the 16 2/3 innings completed against the Braves this year.
With this sixth shutout loss of the season, the Braves were limited to two hits for the fourth time this season. To put this in perspective, they were limited to two hits or fewer a total of five times during the 2009 and 2010 seasons combined.
The Braves’ offense showed some sign of life this past weekend when they scored at least four runs in each of their first three games against the Astros. This marked the first time they had scored at least four runs in three consecutive games since May 14. National League teams are averaging 4.1 runs per game this year.
This sudden sign of offense is not what cause the Astros to fire their highly-regarded pitching coach Brad Arnsberg Tuesday. But it did seemingly serve only as an cruel tease for Braves fans, who have seen their team lose three straight since winning a sixth consecutive game Sunday.
Had Jordan Schafer not hit a three-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning of Monday’s 8-3 loss to the Astros, the Braves might be entering tonight’s series finale against the Mets having been blanked in two of their previous three games.
Instead, they enter tonight’s series finale against R.A. Dickey hoping to end their frustrations against the Mets. Simply saying that the Braves have lost four straight against the Mets only tells a portion of the story.
The Braves have scored more than run through first seven innings of just one of the five games played against the Mets this month. But obviously for more than a month, the Mets’ pitchers aren’t the only ones who have been causing the Braves fits.
Mets shortstop Jose Reyes has recorded nine hits in the five games he has played against the Braves dating back to June 3. The Braves have just three players — Freddie Freeman (11), Alex Gonzalez (11) and Chipper Jones (10) — who have recorded more than eight hits in the 12 games they have played during this same span.
Reyes is one of those unique true leadoff hitters that Jordan Schafer would like to become. Schafer created a lot of initial excitement. But through the small sample size of the 19 games he has played, the athletic centerfielder hasn’t exactly been a consistent catalyst. He is hitting .211 with a .294 on-base percentage.
It will be interesting to see if Schafer attempts to bunt with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey on the mound tonight. Dickey has made three starts since injuring his right heel on May 26.
Schafer didn’t attempt to bunt against Dickey on June 5. But that was just two days after a fouled bunt attempt had struck the right side of his face.
Speaking of Schafer, Nate McLouth will begin his Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett tonight. Brandon Beachy will also be beginning his rehab assignment while starting for Gwinnett tonight. The rookie hurler, who has been sidelined since May 13 with a strained left oblique muscle, will start again for Gwinnett Tuesday night.
McLouth, who has been sidelined since May 22 with an oblique strain, will likely two or three games before being activated. When he returns, he’ll likely play left field until Martin Prado recovers from his staph infection.
When Prado is deemed healthy enough to return, it will be interesting to see if McLouth returns to his starting duties in center field. If Schafer spends the next couple weeks proving he can be a legit leadoff hitter, then the Braves have to keep him in the lineup. If he falters, McLouth could definitely regain his job.
That’s enough doom and gloom for today. We’ll attempt to add to your frustration tomorrow when we focus on Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz and Matt Harrison, who will all be coming to town this weekend for the first time since being shipped to the Rangers for Mark Teixeira.