PHILADELPHIA – The Braves’ seven-game road trip began with a 1-0 loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Atlanta (93-57) fell to 1 1/2 games behind the Mets, who did not play on Thursday.
Here are five observations:
1. The stage is set.
The Braves have 12 games remaining. Three will come against the Mets, and those will probably decide the division. For the most part, the Braves control their destiny and can only worry about taking care of their own business.
But first, Atlanta – which has lost consecutive games – must get back to playing like itself.
“Nobody wants to play well and win more than the guys who are on the field every day,” Dansby Swanson said.
In the series opener versus the Phillies, the Braves were shut out for only the fourth time in 150 games. The Braves have scored only five runs over their last three games, an uncharacteristic cold snap for their offense. The lineup has not looked as dangerous over the last week. (That said, the Braves still went 5-1 on their homestand).
“We’re still a confident bunch,” starter Max Fried said. “We know how talented we are and how good of a team we are. Just going back out there and just playing our game tomorrow. As cliché as it is, you got to flush it and then go out there the next day.
“I think we’ve taken some good at-bats and are throwing the ball well, it’s just that sometimes another team comes out and plays really well, too. Not trying to do too much, not trying to get outside of ourselves. Just play our brand of baseball, and we’ve been pretty successful doing that so far.”
2. Before the first pitch on Thursday, the Braves ranked third in baseball with a .271 batting average with runners in scoring position. Their 51-homer total in those spots also was third.
They then went 0-for-6 with men in scoring position and left nine on base in the loss. We are accustomed to seeing them swing games with big hits and rallies. But the offense is struggling a bit right now.
“We’ve had these streaks before and hopefully it’s short-lived and we turn this thing around,” manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s two games. We won five out of six on a homestand, which is pretty good – really good. It happens. There’s no recipe for when. Show back up tomorrow and get on a run.”
In the sixth inning, the Braves loaded the bases before Michael Harris grounded out to first base. This was only one missed opportunity. Two Braves reached base in the first inning before Atlanta put three on base (at different points) in the fourth, one in the eighth and one in the ninth.
“You just never know in the course of the season, when you’re going to hit those ruts or whatever,” Snitker said. “So hopefully we’re going to hit one now and sooner than later we get going and finish with a bang.”
3. Anecdotally, it did not seem like Max Fried had an easy time with many hitters. The Phillies made him work.
He found himself in a lot of battles.
“You go out there to compete,” Fried said. “That’s kind of what I’ve been doing over the last couple years is I just try to compete to the best of my abilities, whatever I have that day, and give us a chance to win. That’s my job and I take a lot of pride in it.”
Of 21 Phillies who faced Fried, eight had three-ball counts. Fried needed 107 pitches to complete five innings, a rarity for the pitcher who should receive National League Cy Young consideration. But Fried, who allowed five hits and walked a batter, held the Phillies to a run.
The game’s lone run scored on Matt Vierling’s second-inning sacrifice fly, and Fried wished he executed a pitch to get a strikeout there.
4. The Braves did not have any answers for lefty Ranger Suarez – again.
He hurled six shutout innings against Atlanta. In the Braves’ last 17 innings versus Suarez, they have scored only one run.
On Thursday, the Braves collected five hits off Suarez and walked twice, but couldn’t get the key hit. Whereas Fried was already over 100 pitches after five innings, the Braves only saw 60 from Suarez in that span.
5. Shortly before first pitch, the Braves scratched Ronald Acuña due to mid-back tightness. He was not available on Thursday.
Snitker said he thought Acuña started to feel it toward the end of batting practice, when he hit in the cage and something “banged on him.”
“He hadn’t been dealing with that or anything,” Snitker said.
The Braves are unsure if he will play on Friday.
Stat to know
0-12 - The teams combined to go 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
“Obviously, play well. That’s what we do. That’s what we’ve always done and what we’ll continue to do.” -Swanson on how the Braves will finish the season
On Friday, Atlanta’s Jake Odorizzi will face Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola in a game that begins at 7:05 p.m.