Braves' offense looks awful

sports@macon.comApril 9, 2014 

Bartolo Colon is fat. He’s (at least) 40 years old. He doesn’t throw very hard. He rarely does anything except change the speed of his fastball, which isn’t even very fast anymore. He’s at the end of his career.

And yet Tuesday night against the weak-hitting Atlanta Braves, you would have thought Colon was Greg Maddux. He was that good.

That’s what teams with a bad offense will do. They’ll make an ordinary pitcher look great. Granted, Colon was outstanding last season for Oakland. That’s why he got a two-year deal from the Mets and why the Braves were even interested in him this past winter.

But to make Colon look that good is worrisome.

The Braves will say the right things. They’ll say Colon still has good stuff, but I didn’t see a fastball over 92 mph all night. They’ll say he mixed his pitches well, but I didn’t see too many breaking balls. He simply changes speeds, and he does it very well.

B.J. Upton got a base hit Tuesday night, and for that we should all be thankful. It’s a wonder Wolf Blitzer didn’t break in on CNN to report it to the world. But he also missed several 90 mph fastballs that were right down the plate. They weren’t on the corners, but right down the plate.

Jason Heyward came up as the tying run with two on and two out in the bottom of the 7th inning. He got down 0-2 in the count and then lined a ground out to second base. Colon walked off the mound like it was no problem.

Then in the 9th inning Heyward flied out with the bases loaded. He just missed it, but that really doesn’t matter. He still missed it.

The Braves are a collection of rally killers, regardless of who is on the mound.

Atlanta has now lost three games by a combined score of 8-1. They wasted a great pitching performance from Aaron Harang Tuesday and simply gave him no run support. It’s a recurring theme so far this season. All three games the Braves have lost were well-pitched games. But you can’t win if you don’t score.

It’s early and there’s no doubt there is no reason to panic. This team looks like it can be a good team, perhaps even better than we might have thought. But the offense needs to come around. The great pitching may not be there all season. At some point, the hitters are going to have to carry this team.

But so far, they are not doing the job. With two outs and runners in scoring position, Atlanta’s hitters are 1-for-23 this season. Heyward, the leadoff man, hasn’t gotten a hit in his last 22 at bats. B.J. Upton had two more strikeouts to take the luster off his base hit. He once again couldn’t catch up to fastballs between 89-94 mph.

Five of Atlanta’s regulars are now hitting .231 or worse, with three under the Mendoza Line (.200). And on a night when the Braves honored home run king Hank Aaron, the team couldn’t muster one against the Mets’ pitching.

This lineup can’t be this bad, can it? Well, first, it’s not constructed properly. There’s no way B.J. Upton should be hitting second. Sure, respect Fredi Gonzalez for trying to put Upton in a position to succeed. But it’s not working. The top two hitters in the lineup are hitting .107 and .138. They’ve got to turn this around and quickly.

Zach Wheeler will pitch for New York Wednesday against Ervin Santana, who will be making his Atlanta debut. Santana will hope for some run support, but don’t count out the Braves making Wheeler look like Tom Seaver.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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