Braves seven games back in East after losing two to Mets

Atlanta Braves' Kyle Wright pitches against the New York Mets on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

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Atlanta Braves' Kyle Wright pitches against the New York Mets on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Credit: AP

NEW YORK – The Braves on Tuesday were swept in a doubleheader at Citi Field. They lost the first game to the Mets, 5-4, before dropping the second, 3-0.

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Here are five observations on Atlanta (11-15).

1. In the series opener Monday, the Braves sent a message: They are still the defending champions and a dangerous club, one that can beat anyone in baseball.

Then came Tuesday. The Braves struggled offensively in the doubleheader. In the second game, they were shut out for the first time this season.

Braves manager Brian Snitker believes his hitters will soon turn this around.

“They all got baseball cards now that are pretty good, so I think at some point in time they’re going to get it going,” he said.

The Braves are now seven games back of the first-place Mets.

2. It’s still early in the season, but the Braves have not yet collected the clutch hits that have, at least in part, become part of their offensive identity in recent seasons.

The Braves rank 24th in baseball, and are second to last in the National League, with a .212 batting average with runners in scoring position. They are 26th in the sport in on-base plus slugging percentage in these situations (.598).

“Obviously we’d like to be getting those guys in at a better clip right now, but it’s baseball,” Matt Olson said. “Sometimes, that’s the way it goes. There’s going to be those ups and downs throughout the year. I’m sure you’ll be able to clip a month-long period where we’re doing it at an incredible rate at some point this season.”

Last season, the Braves ranked third with a .267 team batting average with men in scoring position. And with runners on, they had the highest OPS of anyone (.822).

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Atlanta Braves' Charlie Morton pitches during the first inning in the first baseball game of a doubleheader against the New York Mets Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

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Atlanta Braves' Charlie Morton pitches during the first inning in the first baseball game of a doubleheader against the New York Mets Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Credit: AP

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Atlanta Braves' Charlie Morton pitches during the first inning in the first baseball game of a doubleheader against the New York Mets Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

3. Charlie Morton believes he has an answer for some of his struggles. He initially thought he simply wasn’t missing enough bats, but he cited something else after his Game 1 start: His lower chase rate.

His chase rate – or the proportion of pitches outside of the zone at which batters swing – was 27.7% last season.

Prior to Morton’s latest start, he had a 20.3% chase rate.

“There’s just no chase,” Morton said. “It’s above and below the zone. I don’t know if that’s a result of them being more selective and really selling out for my fastball-curveball mix or what, but my chase is way down. I think that’s the problem. When there’s no chase, then you feel like you’re kind of keyholed in to the zone, and then that creates its own set of problems, because then you feel like you have to be too fine.”

Morton on Tuesday allowed five runs – four earned – over 6 2/3 innings. He walked three men and hit another. He found himself on the unfortunate end of some soft contact.

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Atlanta Braves' Matt Olson watches his three-run home run during the fifth inning in the first baseball game of a doubleheader against the New York Mets, Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Credit: AP

Atlanta Braves' Matt Olson watches his three-run home run during the fifth inning in the first baseball game of a doubleheader against the New York Mets, Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Credit: AP

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Atlanta Braves' Matt Olson watches his three-run home run during the fifth inning in the first baseball game of a doubleheader against the New York Mets, Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

4. In the first game of the doubleheader, a slumping Olson reminded everyone of what he can do: He hit a 405-foot, three-run homer off David Peterson to bring the Braves within a run. In the nightcap, Olson doubled twice to go along with the homer and two walks from the first game.

From April 19 through Monday, Olson was 6-for-44 with four doubles and five RBIs. He might be exiting his slump.

Olson said he had been expanding the zone in recent weeks.

“When you’re feeling good, you get a little confidence and sometimes you do expand and you start hitting some pitches that you don’t hit all the time,” he said. “When it’s done being as good as it was and you’re still swinging at those pitches, that’s when things go a little south.”

Game 2: Mets 3, Braves 0

5. In Game 2, Kyle Wright tossed seven innings and allowed three runs. His team came up short, but it wasn’t because of him.

In Wright’s last two outings, he’s dealt with more traffic on the bases. This has taught him a lot.

“You definitely learn more,” said Wright, who has a 1.74 ERA. “You kind of learn what you’re capable of and what you’re able to do. So for me, I feel like these past two, I’ve learned that I’m always one pitch away. I feel like I can always get out of an inning and limit some damage.”

Stat to know

0-for-11 - The Braves went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position in the Game 2 loss. They left seven men on base.

Quotable

“You just weather (the storm). That’s the key, is weathering it. Not trying too hard. Everybody wants to be the guy when you do that, and it’s probably detrimental to what you’re trying to do. All it takes is one guy to get that hit and then the floodgates start.” - Snitker on going through struggles with runners in scoring position

Up next

Braves right-hander Ian Anderson will face Mets right-hander Tylor Megill Wednesday in the series finale, which begins at 1:10 p.m.