As the inimitable Alex R concluded yesterday:
“Games like this make it easy to believe that the Braves are just a winning streak away from being right back where they want to be. Now, they just have to figure out how to win more than four games in a row…”
Games like tonight make it easy to believe that the Braves will not put together the kind of winning streak that will put them where they want to be. It’s hard to imagine this team ever winning more than four in a row.
The Braves lost to the Mets Wednesday 7-3.
On the one hand, it’s good to split in the Mets home park, and leave town no further back than when they arrived at 3:00 Monday morning. Last Wednesday, the Braves were 7.5 behind the Mets; a week later, they are just 5 back, and they have three more at home against the Mets next week with a chance to cut further into that lead.
On the other hand, the Braves could have and should have left the Big Apple with better than a 2-2 split. The Mets offense has been pretty dreadful all season. Of the Mets’ starting 8, the highest OPS was .782 (Pete Alonso, who has himself been a big disappointment), and no one else was over .711. They lead the division due to excellent pitching, especially the starting rotation.
But the Braves lucked out on that front. They faced deGrom in the opener (and made a close game of it), but in the next three games the starting pitchers for the Mets were: (1) Jerad (sic) Eickoff, a guy who hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2019 (and he wasn’t very good then); (2) Marcus Stroman, who has been excellent, but left the game with an injury after one inning; and (3) Tylor (sic) Megill, a guy making his major league debut.
Those are three games you ought to win if you want to catch the Mets. Our Braves managed to win games 2 and 3, but no dice in game 4.
Because Max Fried is on the injured list with a blister, the Braves turned to Kyle Wright. I’ve been a defender of Wright, more so than most around here. The kid has very good stuff, and he still has time to figure out how to be a quality big league pitcher. It’s fair to say he hasn’t figured it out yet. Td pointed out in comments that Wright has a 1.62 WHIP at AAA. That’s not gonna get it done.
Tonight’s start confirmed that he still has a long way to get there, if he ever does. Wright simply cannot command his pitches. He had a 31 pitch first inning. Walk to Lindor, double to Conforto (on a 3-1 pitch). A wild pitch and groundout plated two runs. The wheels came all the way off in the second inning; a double by Guillarme (whoever that is), a ground ball single by McNeil, a two run homer by Lindor (on a 2-0 pitch), and it’s 5-0 after 2 innings.
Given that RAJ was sitting this one out due to back pain, that 5 run deficit looked more like 10. The Braves starting outfield was Almonte, Inciarte, and Adrianza. That’s a AAAA outfield (and I may be generous with the A’s there). My son pointed out that they would probably be better with their actual AAA outfield: Waters, Demeritte, and Pache.
Thanks to Josh Tomlin, who held the Mets scoreless over the next three innings, and thanks to a two run homer by Inciarte (!!) in the 5th and an rbi single by Adrianza in the 6th, the Braves made a game of it. But the Braves did not score again, and the bullpen gave up single runs in the 7th (by Gwyneth’s Ex) and 8th (by Greene, who lowered his ERA to 17.36), for a final score of 7-3.
Freddie went 4 for 4, and got his average over .250. He’s going to be fine. And Austin Riley had two doubles. He’s for real. But this team needs another bat or two.
Can the Braves make a run at the division? Of course they can. The Mets are beatable, as are the Nats and Phillies. But will they? The starting pitching has been quite good the last month or so. (We need Fried to miss only one start, and for Kyle Wright to spend the rest of the season at Gwinnett). The offense can score enough, but did I mention they need another bat or two? The bullpen is still a huge problem, but it is fixable.
I said last week this is about the most frustrating Braves team I remember. I’m not quite as frustrated as a week ago, but it’s still a struggle. Still, it’s nothing that winning thirteen of the next sixteen before the ASG wouldn’t cure. That streak starts with a four game set in Cincy tomorrow.
P.S. My frustration with the Braves is greatly tempered by my excitement about the Hawks! What a fun team! How many games below .500 were they mid-season? See, turnarounds are possible!