WASHINGTON – The Braves are going through it.

They are not exactly spiraling – they are still 35-27 after Saturday’s loss at Nationals Park – but they clearly are not playing well. This has not lasted for a week, two weeks or a month.

It has been over a month since Atlanta’s offense clicked with regularity.

On Saturday, the Braves lost to the Nationals, 7-3. The Braves are 2-5 against Washington, which is not a contender.

The Braves must win on Sunday to avoid losing three of four to the Nationals for a second time this season.

Five observations:

1. There is no other way to say it: This was bad baseball.

The Braves are far better than this. At some point, they will show it – or at least we think they will. But they are not there yet.

Once again, their lack of offense provided the backdrop for another loss. This time, though, we witnessed some sloppy play.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, after the Braves had scored in the top half to pull within three runs, they manufactured a run – for the Nationals. Austin Riley bounced a throw to Matt Olson to put a man on base, and was charged with an error, before Charlie Morton fired an errant pickoff throw past Olson that allowed the runner to go from first to third. The errors gave old teammate Eddie Rosario the chance to drive in a run and push the lead back to four.

And in the top half of that inning, before the Braves handed Washington a run, Sean Murphy had a pitch timer violation for strike three – essentially giving away an at-bat with a runner on base and no outs.

“You can’t shoot yourself in the foot when you’re not going good and things aren’t happening,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “Those are the types of things that we can control. It’s hard when you get in that batter’s box to control everything. But we have to control the things we can. And we’ve done a good job of doing that. I say, we haven’t been not playing good baseball – we just haven’t been hitting. We’ve been pitching really good, we got a great start (on Friday) night.

“It’s just, we’re having a tough time scoring runs. We’re not playing bad. If you don’t pitch and hit, then you know what, people live with it. But it kind of gets magnified when you’re having a hard time scoring runs.”

Morton allowed five runs – four earned – over five innings. But the offense, as has often been the case recently, didn’t put up much of a fight. The Braves never had a lead. Rosario drove in as many runs alone as the Braves scored all afternoon.

Will Snitker say something to his players or does he believe that to be counterproductive when dealing with major leaguers?

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ll say something when I feel like something needs to be said.”

2. On April 29, the Braves began a series in Seattle, the first game of their West Coast road trip. They were coming off a series win over Cleveland, and had won 11 of their past 13 games. The offense did not fare well in Seattle and Los Angeles, and it seemed the Braves might’ve just run into great starting pitching.

It has not changed much. The offense is slumping hard.

But they believe they’re better than this – and they’re probably correct.

“You can point to the track record – we know the talent and the guys we have in here,” Murphy said. “And I’m not saying it’s going to be an explosion, but it’s going to be a steady improvement. Last couple nights have not been particularly good, and I don’t think anyone would argue with that. It’s just one of those things – a little momentum, get it going, things go our way, a couple balls fall, we get going, get on track.”

Entering Saturday, the Braves’ lineup had hit .220 – the second-worst mark in baseball, ahead of only Chicago. Atlanta’s .644 OPS ranked 28th in the sport, in front of only the White Sox and Nationals. The Braves’ 122 runs were the second fewest, ahead of only the White Sox – though this can be funky because the teams haven’t all played the same amount of games over this span.

But you get the point: It’s been rough.

The Braves only have two hitters with an OPS above .750. On Saturday, they went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, including leaving the bases loaded in the first inning.

Left-hander MacKenzie Gore allowed two runs over five innings. The Nationals have pitched well against the Braves, but there shouldn’t be any excuses.

“Yeah, they’ve thrown the ball really well, but it’s a pretty good league and you’re gonna face that pretty much every night,” Snitker said. “We’re just gonna have to do a better job of executing.”

Washington Nationals' mascot Screech, right, tries to dislodge Atlanta Braves' Ozzie Albies's bat, second from bottom left, that got stuck in the netting after Albies' lost his grip on it during his at-bat in the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Saturday, June 8, 2024, in Washington. Braves' Austin Riley, bottom left, watches. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Credit: AP

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Credit: AP

3. How would Morton describe the mood in the clubhouse over the last couple of weeks?

“I don’t know. I honestly don’t notice much of a difference from last year, when everything was going well,” Morton said. “And I think that’s kind of why I would assume that everything would get back on track quicker. I don’t know. It’s like, I think that’s what helps teams avoid big skids, like eight, nine, 10 losses in a row, and usually what helps teams get back on track quicker. I think it’s just, we just haven’t hit it yet.”

One reporter asked whether the Braves can simply just hang onto hope that it’ll turn soon.

“Yeah I mean, I don’t know if it’s hope, because I think hope is, like, unjustified sometimes. And I think this team is too good for that – too good to hope. I think this team is really, really good,” Morton said. “And I say that based on what this team has done in the past three and a half years, since I came back in ‘21. The core is the same, essentially. So I wouldn’t say it’s hope, I would say it’s more rational than anything. It just hasn’t clicked.

“But like I said, the feeling in the room, I would say it’s not typical of a team that hasn’t hit its stride yet. Because usually teams that haven’t hit their stride yet, there’s a lot of moping, there’s a lot of blaming other people, there’s a lot of negativity, there’s silence, there’s awkwardness, there’s a feeling of despair. And there’s just not that here. I just don’t see that. I think that this team and the guys on this team, in this room, are realistically disappointed that we’re not playing better. But I don’t get that sense of despair.”

4. The Braves, as talented as they might be, are human. And it can be frustrating, one would assume, to work so hard and not see the results.

“It’s the hardest thing we do in this sport,” Snitker said. “It’s tough. But you have to handle it. Like I’ve always said, you’ve gotta handle it if you’re gonna come out of it. We will. It’s just kind of, you keep pushing and pushing and grinding, and one day it’ll break loose.”

Many Braves fans don’t want to hear about how “this is baseball” or “there’s been bad luck.” This isn’t to say the Braves have made excuses, only to note that fandom is more extreme than measured in many cases.

How difficult can it be to stay patient when there aren’t immediate results?

“You just remind yourself that this is the sport we play, right?” Murphy said. “You can do everything right and go 0-for-4 and you can do everything wrong and go 4-for-4. Just continue to do everything right every single day, and build consistency.”

The Braves feel people are going about their work in the correct manner and doing all they can to end this.

“It’s a bunch of pros in this clubhouse,” Murphy said. “No panic from anybody. Just the same day in and day out, do what everybody knows works for them and keep chugging along.”

5. On Thursday, Hurston Waldrep got a call – the call.

“It’s kind of hard to say I wasn’t shocked,” the Braves top prospect said. “Obviously a big surprise. It’s pretty cool just to be here and take all this in, enjoy all the firsts and everything that comes along with it, and just play some baseball.”

Waldrep will make his MLB debut in a start for the Braves in Sunday’s series finale here. He’s a lifelong Braves fan, so this means a lot to him.

Are there nerves?

“I wish I could say I was calm. I wish I could say that,” Waldrep said. “But that’s part of it. I think nerves will always be a part of baseball. Anyone you ask, they’d be lying if they said they didn’t have nerves playing the game of baseball. So, yeah, a little nervous, but also really excited.”

Stat to know

16-20 - Since the start of play on April 19, the Braves are 16-20.


“I think everybody’s fine, good. It’s a long season. We got a bunch more games. You can’t panic at a couple bad days, you can’t get overexcited at the good ones. We got another one tomorrow.” - Murphy on the mood in the clubhouse

Up next

The Braves on Sunday will face lefty DJ Herz, who’ll make his second career major-league start.