It’s pretty brutal out there. In the month of April, the Braves drew the short straw on scheduling. The Braves play 28 of their first 31 games against likely playoff teams. Games where you have your best vs. not-their-best still result in a frustrating loss.
Tonight had Julio Teheran against Ross Stripling, so you like your chances. However, Teheran was battling the flu and only lasted 5 1/3 innings. It was a good enough 5 1/3 innings to leave with the lead, only to have Eric O’Flaherty give up a first pitch 2-run homer to Adrian Gonzalez. I love me some O’Flaherty, but he just doesn’t have it. We then brought out the A-squad, getting appearances from Chris Withrow, Jim Johnson, Arodys Vizcaino, and Jason Grilli. When you throw that starter and those relievers, you really have to hope you can pull out a W. Sigh.
The Braves offense is woefully anemic. As of tonight’s conclusion, they are on pace to hit 34 home runs. Even in a rebuilding year, that just won’t do. We were out-hit, of course, but we still had 7 hits on the night. With the decent contact and walk rates for the team, you would hope we could push more runs across. But at one point of the night, 5 of the 8 position players had batting averages below .200. Blech.
I’m watching every game because I want to see each player experience A Moment, a play or event that can galvanize a young player towards turning the corner. And, boy, were we close with Mallex Smith tonight. I was listening on the radio at this point, and I can’t find a highlight, but this is what it sounded like: Justin Turner hit a ball into the left-center gap. Mallex was shaded towards right-center and nearly made a run-saving catch in the gap. Instead the snow-cone grab popped out as he hit the ground, and a run scored. I want those moments for our young players as they drudge through a miserable season. We all remember the beautiful catch Heyward made in the left-center gap at Citi Field to win it three years ago. Players need those.
At any rate, we’ll be treated to more young Braves as either Mike Foltyniewicz or Aaron Blair may make a start on Sunday. Williams Perez likely has ended his bid to be a rotation fixture, and the future is getting closer and closer.