While the team is on a 33-win pace, which assuredly would earn it a playoff spot, this hasn’t been an easy start to the 60-game season. The Braves have lost ace Mike Soroka, second baseman Ozzie Albies, designated hitter Matt Adams and reliever Chris Martin to the injured list. Outfielder Ronald Acuna is also down, though the team hopes rest will aid his sore left wrist.
First baseman Freddie Freeman, who returned five days before opening day after recovering from COVID-19, hasn’t performed to his standard for much of the campaign. While explosive, the Braves haven’t found their rhythm on offense. They haven’t seen their best players click simultaneously despite their general offensive success. That gives hope brighter days are ahead.
The story of the first 20 games centers on the rotation, which is down three expected contributors. Soroka suffered a torn Achilles during the last homestand, ending his season. Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb, who’ve had volatile careers thus far, struggled enough that both were removed from the starting five and stationed at the team’s alternate training site in Gwinnett.
Those losses are added on top of the Braves already missing two veteran starters. Felix Hernandez decided against playing shortly after camp opened in early July. Cole Hamels hasn’t been available since spring training.
Altogether, a team with World Series hopes has endured colossal changes to its staff. Touki Toussaint and Kyle Wright, two right-handers who weren’t expected to be starters in the early going, are now two of the team’s three traditional starters, along with newly anointed ace Max Fried.
“I hope these guys learn every time out, get better,” Snitker said. “They all have the stuff to do that. You just have to hope that they improve. I hope they grow up right in front of our eyes. We’re going to keep working with them. They’re sharp kids with stuff.”
How the Braves fare over the next 40 games and beyond will depend on their health and rotation. The Braves have skated by with an outstanding bullpen thus far, but as Wednesday illustrated, even it will have weaker nights.
The eight-team postseason gives the Braves plenty of breathing room, but to avoid another early ouster, the starting pitching needs to be significantly better than it’s shown. If that can materialize over the next month will be the No. 1 storyline moving forward.
Notes from Wednesday:
- Huascar Ynoa started for the Braves, failing to register an out in the second inning. Staked a 2-0 lead, Ynoa gave up back-to-back homers to Gary Sanchez and Clint Frazier. He then walked Brett Gardner and allowed a single to DJ LeMahieu, ending his night.
Lefty Tyler Matzek escaped that inning, but he and Josh Tomlin allowed two runs each in relief. Neither player was hit particularly hard, but the Yankees offense worked counts and found the right spots.
“There were a lot of balls hit right in front of the outfielder,” Snitker said. “I said before, they’re going to give up some runs. It’s going to happen every now and then. Those guys have been phenomenal this first third of the season. They’ve been as good as you can ask for. Everybody down there has been amazing. That’s why we’re sitting here 11-9 and not 9-11 thanks to that bullpen.”
- Johan Camargo was one of the Braves’ few bright spots, smacking a two-run homer in the second that gave them an early lead. It was Camargo’s third consecutive game with a hit after going 5-for-25 in his previous 12 contests.
- In other positive news, shortstop Dansby Swanson went 3-for-5, earning his first multi-hit game since Aug. 4 after sputtering over the past week. After Swanson doubled in the ninth, catcher Travis d’Arnaud singled him home, scoring the Braves’ final run and extending his hitting streak to seven games.
- Following the game, Snitker announced that Acuna would miss the upcoming series in Miami and be re-evaluated after the weekend. He also expressed doubt that Adams (hamstring strain) or Albies (right wrist soreness) would return in the next week.
- The Braves begin a three-game series in Miami on Friday. Wright will face the Marlins in what will be their first home game at Marlins Park this season.