Amid slump, Braves’ Matt Olson searches for more consistency

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

SAN FRANCISCO – Hitting can be fickle. In a season, there are peaks and valleys, each different from the last. It is a constant work in progress.

And right now, Matt Olson is battling one of those tough stretches that every player goes through multiple times a year.

“Obviously the consistency hasn’t been there,” Olson said before Tuesday’s game against the Giants. “Just fouling off a lot of pitches in the zone. Typically not gonna have much success when you’re fouling off pitches you should be hitting. Just a tick under some stuff – talking centimeters here of a foul ball in the back of the net and a ball squared up.”

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Olson entered Tuesday having gone 4-for-45 over his last 13 games. He hit a home run and tallied four RBIs over that stretch. He walked seven times and struck out 12 times.

He collected a hit in Monday’s loss at Oracle Park. In the previous series in Seattle, he felt he hit a ball well to left field that got caught. “Some of those fall,” he said, “it might be a different scenario.” It seems like Olson feels he’s headed in the correct direction.

Sometimes, there is a thin margin for error in hitting. If something is a tick off, the results might show it. Hitters are constantly trying to stay on top of everything while not trying to think too much while at the plate. Olson’s struggles are nothing a hitter has not experienced before.

“I think it’s part of what we do here – it’s not easy,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “When guys are going good, everything’s flowing and everything. You have a tendency maybe to press every now and then. But I still feel really good when he’s up there, I know that. I don’t ever feel that he’s not going to get a big hit.”

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The good news for the Braves is this: Despite Olson struggling, and Austin Riley and Ronald Acuña having a tough time at the plate recently, the Braves are winning games. They entered Tuesday with a three-game losing streak, but that only came after an eight-game winning streak.

Michael Harris, Vaughn Grissom, William Contreras, Travis d’Arnaud, Robbie Grossman and others have contributed. Atlanta’s lineup depth has been a strength.

“Obviously we’ve lost a few here recently, but I wouldn’t say that the top of the order has been on fire as of late, and we’ve had a pretty solid record up until these last few,” Olson said.

He soon added this about some of his teammates: “It’s technically the bottom part of the order, but it’s not really the case when we look at it. Those guys can do damage and carry the load as well. They’ve been doing a great job. When you’re winning ballgames, it’s good news no matter how it gets done.”

Like anyone else, Olson works with the Braves’ hitting coaches. They study video to spot the intricacies of everything.

Olson might be slumping, but he arrived at the ballpark on Tuesday with 28 home runs and 91 RBIs. The big-picture view is this: Despite recent struggles, Olson has been a run-producing part of the lineup this season.

No one is immune from the valleys of the game.

“This is just such a hard game to play,” Snitker said. “These guys make it look easy and it’s not, and they go through struggles.”

Baseball players expect hot streaks and cold stretches. It is part of the game.

“You hope throughout the course of 162, water finds its level,” Olson said.

Grissom gets a day off

Grissom received a day off on Tuesday. He is 1-for-15 over the last four games, and made a costly error on Monday.

“I was watching the game last night and you kind of look in here to guys and see what’s going on,” Snitker said. “He’s played every down since he’s been here. Sometimes, it’s good to sit and watch.”

As Snitker noted, Grissom had played in every game since the Braves called him up last month. Overall, he’s batting .309 with five homers and 16 RBIs.

He’s played really well for the Braves, who brought him up out of necessity when Orlando Arcia suffered an injury.

“He’s done great,” Snitker said. “Didn’t know what to expect from a young guy with the limited professional experience. He’d played mostly shortstop and had limited second base (experience) and has worked really hard every day. Probably some of his biggest plate appearances have been walks, and he’s kept innings going. He’s done really well. Very proud of how he’s handled this whole thing.”

Snitker said Grissom’s day off had nothing to do with him banging his knee during a collision with Grossman in right field on Sunday.

Adrianza over Arcia

Snitker opted to start Ehire Adrianza over Arcia, who has been the primary backup infielder (and starter when needed) this season.

Snitker said one factor in the decision was that lefties – Adrianza is a switch-hitter – have fared better than righties against Giants starter Jakob Junis.

This season, lefties were batting .292 with an .810 OPS versus Junis before Tuesday. Righties, on the other, had hit .209 with a .625 OPS.

But the manager added this: “There’s not a big reason why either/or – couldn’t go wrong with either of those guys that I (could’ve) picked.”

Ozzie Albies’ rehab assignment moving along

The rain has not been Ozzie Albies’ friend. It has slowed his rehab assignment a bit.

Tuesday and Wednesday are important days for Albies. Snitker said he was scheduled to play nine innings at second base on both days. The Braves plan to see how he feels after that.

On Tuesday, Albies went 5-for-5 with three RBIs and a walk-off home run for Triple-A Gwinnett.

Before Tuesday, Albies had not played since Sept. 9. Position players can be on a rehab assignment for a maximum of 20 days, meaning the Braves could not have Albies on a rehab assignment past Sept. 20. Gwinnett’s recent rainouts still count toward the 20 days.