WASHINGTON – It happened again. By now, you are probably used to this.

The Braves followed a good offensive performance with … a clunker.

They lost to the Nationals, 2-1, on Friday at Nationals Park. They spoiled a wonderful start from Chris Sale.

Five observations:

1. After his team turned in another poor offensive showing, manager Brian Snitker was asked what he sees when he looks at his group these days.

His full answer:

“When I come here in the afternoon, I see guys that are doing all the work possible to get out of this. They’re doing everything in their power to get out of it,” he said. “Unfortunately, when you go out there, there’s other people that are involved also in this game when they’re doing that. There’s just nothing you can do but come every day and do your work. The attitude’s good, there’s nobody sulking or anything. It’s just, it’s not happening for us. I just still believe that it’s gonna happen. At some point in time, we’re gonna get this thing rolling.

“It’s the hardest thing in the game to do in baseball. (People say), ‘You’re flat, duh-duh-duh-duh.’ No you’re not. You’re just not hitting. These guys are playing good defense, they’re hustling. They’re doing everything they can to win the game – we’re just not getting big hits. That’s the rough part of this game, for those guys out there. Because it’s tough. It’s tough to hit. It’s tough to hit. But they do everything right. They’re working their tails off, and they care, and the coaches are in there with them, probably sweating – it tears them up, too, because they put so much into it, and they care so much. You just gotta weather the storm, keep fighting. Come out tomorrow and get ‘er going.”

Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker sits in the dugout during the eighth inning of the team's baseball game against the Washington Nationals on Friday, June 7, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/John McDonnell)

Credit: John McDonnell/AP

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Credit: John McDonnell/AP

2. Multiple times on Friday, the Braves seemed poised for a moment when they would swing the game in their favor. They created the chances.

They missed out on all but one of them.

They went 1-for-8 with men in scoring position, and the lone hit was Matt Olson’s eighth-inning single that drove in Marcell Ozuna, who only doubled because a wicked wind pushed the ball away from the center fielder.

In a one-run loss, the Braves left seven men on base. This was another excruciating defeat that could’ve gone another way.

The worst of the blown opportunities came in the sixth: Down two runs, the Braves had men on second and third with no outs, then Olson popped up in the infield, Ozzie Albies grounded out to the pitcher and Adam Duvall flied out.

Atlanta couldn’t even make a productive out to score a run.

“I’ve said this many times: The human nature thing is to want to be the guy to get us off the mat, and that’s the hardest thing in the world to do,” Snitker said. “And it’s hard. A productive out is hard to make happen when you’re facing guys that we face all the time. It’s tough. But like I said, it’s not gonna be for lack of effort, caring or anything like that. That’s why I’m confident as I can be that we’re gonna turn this thing around. We’re gonna start scoring the runs that we’re capable of doing. We keep getting efforts like we did last night and tonight and out of the pitching, and we’re gonna be fine.”

And in the fifth inning, Orlando Arcia led off with a double and reached third on a groundout, but stayed there as consecutive hitters popped out to the shortstop.

It’s been difficult for these Braves – as talented as they are – to remain patient while they work toward a turnaround.

“Yeah, for sure, it is, especially when you know the kind of talent and potential that we have,” Olson said. “We’re not playing like we can and we should. There’s little things. Second and third, nobody out (in the sixth), we don’t get a run in. I gotta do better with that. Infield back, that should be at least a run every time. And just little things like that are kind of adding up. That’s the nature of the beast right now.”

Is it a case of guys trying to do too much in those spots?

“I think a lot of it is guys are kind of grinding a little bit,” Olson said. “Just missing pitches that we’re typically putting in play. A couple quick at-bats this series of making outs. But for the most part, we’re swinging at good pitches and we’re just not hitting them. We just gotta keep our nose down, keep working. It’s not our potential here.”

Nationals right-hander Jake Irvin also deserves credit for throwing six scoreless innings versus Atlanta.

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Chris Sale throws to a Washington Nationals batter during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, June 7, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/John McDonnell)

Credit: AP

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Credit: AP

3. In the fourth inning, with runners on first and second versus Sale, the Nationals perfectly executed a double steal. Catcher Sean Murphy, who has a terrific arm, bounced a throw right in front of Albies at second base, and the ball rolled into center field, which allowed a run to score.

A couple batters later, Sale gave up a two-out, run-scoring single.

This was the game. His offense didn’t provide him with any run support.

And after the game, Sale gave a vote of confidence about Atlanta’s lineup.

“They’re just fighting, man,” he said. “It’s no secret that we’re not fully clicking. You see it at times, though. There’s these outbursts, we have games here or there. But I’m very, very excited to see this, because I know who we have in this clubhouse. And being where we’re at, it’s gonna be a lot of fun when it clicks and when we get rolling.

“We just gotta keep picking each other up and fighting. Everyone’s doing their work, everyone’s grinding. That’s kind of the beauty of this game and sometimes, that’s kind of the thorn in the side, is it can be really fun and it can be pretty relentless at times. Stay the course, keep working, keep picking each other up, keep having fun and stay loose. When it clicks, it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”

Sale, who allowed those two runs over seven frames, has gone seven innings in seven of 12 starts this year – a remarkable trend for a guy who has dealt with injuries in recent seasons. He also struck out 10 batters for the second time this season. He’s struck out at least eight hitters in six of 12 starts.

4. There’s a lot of angst and anger in the fan base about the Braves’ play. Some of it is warranted. But perspective is necessary.

“It says more about what they’ve done,” Sale said of this stretch seeming so poor. “Everyone’s talking about this and that. How many games over .500 are we right now?”

Nine.

The Braves are 35-26.

“I think a lot of teams would love to be in the position we’re in, and these guys have done such a great job in the past of just scoring runs in bunches and carrying the load that this might feel more skewed than it really is,” Sale said. “Everyone’s doing what they gotta do, we’re not giving up. It just happens. That’s what happens in sports. That’s why we play the games. I’m excited for when it gets going.”

Added Olson: “I think the bar was set high – as it should be for the guys we have in here. Not every season is just gonna be a walk in the park. What we were doing last year, it seemed like every night, we were putting up five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 runs. And now, we gotta work a little harder for it right now. There’s gonna be the waves throughout a season. This wave is lasting a little longer than we would hope and have anticipated, but there’s nothing we can do about it now other than go get tomorrow and try to swing it around.”

5. In 2021, the Braves looked terrible, then turned it around, got hot and won the World Series. In 2022, they started slow – a World Series hangover – and then blazed through the second half.

Does that give them some comfort that this year can be similar?

“Well, I don’t know,” Snitker said. “It does, but there’s just nothing that says that’s gonna happen again. Every year is its own thing. You gotta worry about this year and tomorrow. Right now, the biggest game we’re gonna play of the year is tomorrow, and we’re gonna come out and do everything we can to win that game.”

Stat to know

12 - Since the start of May, the Braves have scored two or fewer runs in 12 of 33 games.

Quotable

“There’s a lot of good baseball cards. These are really good baseball players. And they’ve all hit, and they will again.” - Snitker on his lineup, which features players who have strong statistics on the back of their baseball cards

Up next

On Saturday, Charlie Morton will pitch against the Nationals, who will send left-hander MacKenzie Gore to the mound.