In this first month and change of the season, the Braves have played the Dodgers, the Mets, the Padres twice and the Brewers twice. And with an underperforming lineup, a few poor defensive games and a couple bullpen collapses, they are still hovering around .500.
Now their next series, in order, are against the Phillies, Marlins, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Athletics, Pirates, Nationals and Cubs. Only one of those teams – Philadelphia – entered the season as a serious contender.
“We’re looking forward to getting home,” said Ian Anderson, who started Sunday’s game. “We haven’t played the Phillies yet this year. Feel like we always bring it a little more against them and have the intensity, so we’re looking forward to that series. But, yeah, think it has a chance to be a good stretch.”
Alcantara pitched a complete game against the Braves on Sunday. Atlanta scored two runs in the ninth but couldn’t complete the comeback. Alcantara struck out seven, walked two and threw 115 pitches.
And the Braves may have received some good fortune – though they shouldn’t apologize for that – to plate that first run. In the fifth inning, Ozzie Albies lifted a deep fly ball that should have been the first out of the inning. Instead, Marlins center fielder Jesus Sanchez, who was on the run, dropped it. Albies, who ended up at third, scored when Dansby Swanson lofted a blooper down the right-field line to tie the game.
In the ninth, Travis d’Arnaud and Albies hit consecutive doubles to score one run. A groundout scored the other. But Adam Duvall popped out to the catcher to end the game.
“One of the best (pitchers) in our league,” Snitker said of Alcantara. “You know it’s going to be a tough ride. You can’t afford to not take advantage of everything that you’re going to do.”
In a tie game, the Marlins scored once in the sixth and twice in the seventh to reclaim their lead.
In the sixth, Brian Anderson hit a run-scoring single off Ian Anderson, who pitched into the seventh and was charged with four earned runs. And in that seventh inning, the second run scored on a sacrifice fly to right fielder Travis Demeritte, who appeared as if he forgot how many outs there were because he didn’t immediately fire the ball in as the runner tagged up to score. (Demeritte might not have had a play at home, but the mental lapse was symbolic of the Braves’ quiet day).
Erik Gonzalez, who scored Miami’s first run in the seventh inning, stole second base and advanced to third on d’Arnaud’s throwing error.
But this game was not about the Marlins’ offense and a couple defensive mistakes.
Atlanta’s lineup has not produced as you would have expected. Matt Olson, Austin Riley and Albies are having a rough time. Demeritte is 0-for-his-last-28. Ronald Acuña has seemed like this lineup’s only consistent threat. Duvall is batting .199 with a .554 OPS.
The Braves still almost tied the game in the ninth. They just couldn’t get to Alcantara any earlier.
“No matter how bad you’re losing or winning, you always want to try and put together a good at-bat,” Duvall said. “I think we do that collectively up and down the lineup, whether the game’s 10-0 or 1-1. You try to hone in and focus on that at-bat.”
Asked for his takeaway from the game, Snitker said: “That we faced a really good pitcher. We hung in there and gave ourselves a chance at the end.”
This slumping offense has frustrated fans.
Here’s the good news: The Braves haven’t come close to playing up to their potential consistently ... and their record has still hovered around even.
Atlanta went 3-3 over three games in Milwaukee and three more in Miami on this trip. The Braves put together good wins (Tuesday, Friday, Saturday) and experienced a gut-wrenching loss (Wednesday).
Now a lighter stretch in the schedule could allow them to hit their stride.
“It’s such a long season,” Ian Anderson said. “We got guys in this locker room that know they’re not playing to their potential, but when they do, watch out. And then that’s exciting. We don’t know who’s going to break out when, but no, it’s a good series, good series win, and we’re going to build off of it.”
Marlins 4, Braves 3 (box score)