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Michael Cunningham’s ramblings from the world of sports
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Braves will bounce back in Pittsburgh

The Rockies swept the Braves at SunTrust over the weekend. The Braves ended the day still leading the NL East by a half game because the Phillies lost to the Mets in the evening. The Braves tonight open a three-game series at the Pirates, who just split a four-game series against the Cubs despite scoring just five runs. 

I’m thinking the Braves will right things against the Pirates. Pittsburgh hasn’t gotten much out of tonight’s scheduled starter, Chris Archer, since adding him via trade and the Pirates can’t match the Braves bat-for-bat. 

It’s hard to draw any big conclusions one way or another from one series, but I think there are reasons to believe that Rockies sweep was as a one-off (or, um, a four-off). It wasn’t enough to dampen my overall optimism about the Braves

The Braves, a good defensive team, were undone by a fielding blunder by Dansby Swanson in the ninth inning of the series opener. The Braves, a power-hitting team, knocked just five doubles and one home run in the series. A.J. Minter’s recent command issues finally showed up in his results because the Rockies are good enough to take advantage, but Minter still was an out away from securing a win. 

Finish out those two victories and the Braves split the series. That’s not meant as an excuse for the Braves. They were swept, after all. I’m just saying they didn’t play well, in ways that largely aren’t typical for them, and still had a good chance to win two of four against a legit opponent. 

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Minter’s outing was bad — Trevor Story, Ian Desmond and especially David Dahl smashed pitches that caught the fat part of the plate. But I’d say his performance is only thing in the series that’s worrisome for the long term. Everything else bad could be attributed to circumstances and the sometimes-random nature of baseball. 

Swanson’s fielding mistakes seem to come at the worst possible times, but he’s been solid overall in the field this season. After Swanson’s error, Brad Brach, who doesn’t walk many, walked Gerrardo Parra on a decent full-count changeup. (And Brach was out there because the bullpen was a bit chewed up.)

Ryan McMahon’s tying RBI single against Brach wasn’t hit hard, just in the right place. David Dahl’s go-ahead single was hit hard, but that two-out single was an extra chance after Swanson’s error. 

The Braves scored 13 runs over four games against the Rockies with 36 strikeouts and 12 walks. That’s probably an aberration: this season the Braves have the lowest strikeout percentage in the NL this season and the fourth-best isolated power. They knocked a home run and two doubles against Jon Gray, Colorado’s best starter, before Swanson’s error greased the comeback. 

The Braves’ starters were good enough to win three of the four games against the Rockies. In the fourth, Sean Newcomb struggled for the second consecutive outing after he’d been great in two consecutive outings before that. Maybe he’ll be good again in the next two. 

Or maybe I’m wrong about all of this and the Pirates will take it to the Braves in Pittsburgh like the Rockies did to them at SunTrust. If so, at least the Braves will see the Marlins after that.

About the Author

Michael Cunningham has covered the Hawks and other beats for the AJC since 2010.

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