The Braves are back in town after winning five of seven games on their trip and maintaining a three-game lead in the NL East. I figured they would recover after getting swept by the Rockies, but I didn’t expect the Braves to put together a pretty good trip despite their offense.
During the seven-game trip the Braves scored only 19 runs and left 57 runners on base. Their offense actually dried up before the trip, with 13 runs scored and 24 LOB’s over four games against Colorado.
Maybe this is the beginning of a bad long-term trend for the Braves’ offense. It would be terrible timing for it with a tough nine-game home stand that includes visits from two great offensive opponents, the Red Sox and Cubs. But I doubt that’s the case.
The reason: Over those 11 games the two most reliable Braves hitters, Freddie Freeman and Nick Marakakis, didn’t hit much. We know from Freeman’s history that he’s likely to get back on track. And even if you think Markakis’ production is due for a correction near the end of a career season, he can be expected produce much more than he has recently.
Over the past 11 games Freeman was 8-for-39 (.205) with a .333 on-base percentage with one double and no home runs. Freeman made contact over those 11 games (just six strikeouts in 47 plate appearances). StatCast data shows that he didn’t have as many hard-bit balls as usual and had some bad luck on a few that he did hit hard.
Markakis was 8-for-40 with a .298 OBP, one double and no home runs over the past 11 games. He struck out just six times in 47 PAs, which is his norm. Markakis didn’t have many hard-hit balls in the air over that span, but he’d been raking for two weeks prior.
Despite not getting much from their big boppers, the Braves managed to squeeze out five victories in 11 games (and with, as noted, some fluky circumstances against the Rockies). They got great production from rookie star Ronald Acuna over that span but, in the latest sign of their hitting depth, Dansby Swanson and Kurt Suzuki also helped fill the void left by the rare simultaneous slumps for Freeman and Markakis.
In the big picture, what’s most encouraging for the Braves is that their pitching (especially the starters) seems to be stabilizing. They’ll need it during the home stand. The Red Sox and Cubs can score in bunches. The Rays have been a mediocre offensive team all season but they pounded out 24 runs during a three-game sweep of the Red Sox over the weekend.
The Braves are capable of matching those teams offensively when Freeman and Markakis are going good. I expect that to happen again this week and their pitching to be good enough for the Braves to win more than they lose during the nine game home stand.
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