The Atlanta Braves: Nine Wins vs. Two Losses

All season long, the Atlanta Braves have been searching for something. Sparks that see the light of day very often fizzle without a trace. It’s almost as if the mysterious and fickle baseball “deities”, whom so many fans believe in, have turned against the team. Many different occasions have seen the Braves rise to a hope previously unknown, only to have it trampled. Yes, life goes on. The world continues spinning. Fans move forward in their everyday lives, pressing on towards many different objectives. However, this would not stop the growing frustrations mounting against the Braves. They simply weren’t winning enough.

Enter a nine-game road trip against three struggling franchises. The Washington Nationals, Miami Marlins, and Baltimore Orioles are having abhorrent seasons. Chances for the Braves to make a huge splash in the standings were gigantic. It simply cannot be overstated how important this road trip was to the team. Considering that the squad’s closest division rivals were having rough schedules, it seemed like a golden opportunity. Thankfully, the team took it and ran with it, posting a perfect three-stop road trip for the first time since 1992. Then they came home and ran into a sudden juggernaut: The New York Yankees. So, let’s dive in and see the differences between a nine-game winning streak and two games of mediocrity.

Washington: The Beginning of the Streak

The road trip began in Washington on August 13. Finding themselves tied with the Philadelphia Phillies, the Braves looked to jump ahead. A convincing sweep of the Nationals did just that, vaulting them into first place. In that series, they outscored Washington 22-9 and hit .287 as a team. Their power showed up, as 11 of their 31 hits left the ballpark. Dansby Swanson was especially spectacular, going 7-14 with four homers. The pitching was terrific as well, hurling 32 strikeouts in 27 innings. The team ERA for the series was 2.67 and 64% of their pitches found the strike zone. They did walk 11 batters, but other than that, they were dominant.

Miami: Sweep, Sweep, Sweep Again

Things seemed to be clicking for the Atlanta Braves as they went to South Beach. The Marlins came into the series having lost their previous game. They would lose the next three as the Braves completed their second consecutive sweep. Once more, the offense was leading the way. They hit .278 in the series with 30 hits, outscoring Miami 25-11. However, some cracks began to show with regards to the pitching. In this series, the team ERA jumped by a full run thanks to one inning in particular. In game three, the Braves were leading 11-3 going into the bottom of the ninth. They wound up winning 11-9. Josh Tomlin and Will Smith combined to almost eradicate the lead. This showed that the team still had a long way to go with its hurlers.

Baltimore: Another Sweep for the Atlanta Braves…with a Catch

Fortunately for Atlanta, the next series was against the Baltimore Orioles. Coming in, the Orioles had lost an abysmal 16 games in a row. Their run differential was -230. Meanwhile, the Braves were enjoying a four-game lead in the NL East. Looking for more, they took to Camden Yards and promptly accomplished a third straight sweep. Max Fried had the pitching performance of his career in game one, hurling a complete game. What’s more, he only needed 90 pitches to do so. The following two games weren’t quite as pretty, but every win is important in a playoff race. Unfortunately, the aforementioned cracks began to bleed over into the offense. They only scored 11 runs in the entire series, hitting a mere .225 (23-102) as a unit. They struck out 22 times and only walked eight times. So, coming home, there was reason to worry.

During the entire road trip, the Atlanta Braves outscored opponents 58-25. They were hitting machines for the first two series, then fizzled out in Baltimore. All in all, they collected 84 hits, 14 doubles, and an astonishing 20 home runs in nine games. They slugged .509 as a team and their on-base percentage rested at .350. The concern lay in their inability to put the ball in play and hit with men on base. They averaged eight strikeouts and 7.3 men left on base per game. True, they hit five home runs, but the lack of production was glaring. Considering the giant waiting for them when they came home, the sole reliance on power could have been considered dangerous…or even foolish. That said, the Braves continued pushing forward, confident in themselves.

Two Games of Struggle for the Atlanta Braves

Then came the Yankees, and a series that was both playoff-like in its atmosphere and historic in its existence. For the first time since 1901, two teams with nine game winning streaks squared off. Unfortunately, the Atlanta Braves came up on the short end of the stick. They hit an ugly .215 as a team over the two games, mustering 14 hits. They were outscored 10-5 and outhomered 4-1. Rougned Odor, DJ LeMahieu, and Giancarlo Stanton dealt massive blows during the series. Being outdone in the home run column is death for a Braves squad that relies heavily on the long ball. Right now, the team ranks second in the National League with 182 home runs. Being held to one long ball for an entire series spells disaster, no matter how long the series is. What’s worse, the Braves struck out 18 times in the two games and left 15 men on base. The lack of offense in Baltimore translated back home in a very severe fashion.

For the pitching staff, the series with New York shined a spotlight on a very simple truth: pitching staffs cannot live by strikeout alone. The Braves struck out 28 Yankees in 18 innings over the two games. However, they gave up, on average, two homers and 6.5 hits a game. They also walked 3.5 batters per game. The bullpen, in particular, had its share of woes. The team’s inherited score percentage was 67% for the series. On the other hand, the Yankees inherited score percentage was 20%. When the offense is struggling so mightily, the pitching has to step up. Unfortunately, the staff was unable to do so.

Rebounding From This

The caveat to all of this is that the Yankees are hotter than the sun’s core right now. That being said, if the Atlanta Braves are to see playoff success, they must defeat these teams. True, the Phillies and New York Mets are fading severely. Nevertheless, the Braves cannot rest on their laurels. Nothing comes easy in this league, and two games against the Yankees definitely proved it. Winning nine in a row in any capacity is cause for celebration. Unfortunately, it seems the Braves began celebrating at win number four instead of win number nine. The momentum was lost and the team paid a significant price for it. Hopefully, they can rebound. It’s desperately needed.

Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images

Players Mentioned:

Dansby Swanson, Josh Tomlin, Will Smith, Max Fried, Rougned Odor, DJ LeMahieu, Giancarlo Stanton

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