ATLANTA – Through 24 games of the 2014 season, the Atlanta Braves enjoyed low numbers. Minuscule earned run averages, a loss count in the single digits, and a propensity to win games decided by three or fewer runs (20 of 23 games had been close calls, but the Braves enjoyed a 17-7 record).
But over the five games since, low numbers have gotten the Braves in trouble.
For the second night in a row, Atlanta lost to the San Francisco Giants (Saturday’s score was 3-1 in favor of the visiting team). For the fifth consecutive game, the Braves failed to pile on runs.
Sure enough, the Braves have lost all five games.
Counting three losses in Miami to the Marlins, and the two here in Atlanta to the Giants, the Braves have scored a total of just nine runs. That’s nine runs in five games, or just 1.8 per game. Atlanta’s pitching has been fantastic this season, but it can’t hold on for long while the Braves’ bats figure things out.
Hence the five-game losing streak, which happens to be the longest the Braves have suffered through since the team lost eight straight between May 21-28, 2012.
Nothing seems to be going right offensively for Atlanta right now.
With runners in scoring position, the Braves were 28th in the league entering Saturday’s game with a .212 batting average. On Saturday they went 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven on base.
“We’re just such a talented group offensively,” said manager Fredi Gonzalez, who agreed he was scratching his head at his club’s lack of getting base runners across the plate. “It seems like we get a guy out [on the basepaths] an inning, we just can’t get him over to home plate.”
Atlanta’s woes aren't exclusively with runners in scoring position. This team that lived by the home run ball through the first weeks of the season, isn’t connecting of late. The Braves have only hit three home runs in their last six games and have only scored more than four runs once in their last 12 games.
Atlanta’s record when it doesn’t hit a home run is 3-9. Its record when it scores less than four runs is 5-10.
“Offensively there’s a little frustration,” said third baseman Chris Johnson. “All of us want to be that guy to get that big hit and get us going. We’re struggling lately.”
Gonzalez echoed Johnson’s sentiment, and said he didn't know if his team was pressing, but knows something is wrong. He pointed to a third-inning strikeout by catcher Evan Gattis, who aggressively swung at what would have been ball four. Gonzalez said the were “a couple of guys” that swung at pitches “way out of the strike zone.”
“Usually when teams go in slumps, the first thing to look at is who’s swinging at pitches out of the strike zone," said Gonzalez. "[I’m] just thinking about three or four occasions today where we did that. We’ll look at it.”
Gonzalez said he was sure hitting coach Greg Walker was just as frustrated about the lack of hitting the Braves are going through, and vowed to get the team going in the right direction.