PHOENIX – There is only one certainty in a baseball season.
There will be stretches – no matter when they occur or how long they last – like the one the Braves are experiencing.
“It’s a (162-game season),” Austin Riley said “In the short time that I’ve been here, it’s like we somehow go through something like this every year. And guys know that, and guys come in and and get it and get that there’s light at the end of the tunnel, it’s just a matter of continuing to just show up and play every day.”
During these frustrating ruts, it may feel like nothing is going well. A team can’t get the big hit. The opponents are making insanely good plays. The ball is bouncing the other team’s way.
Like every team, the Braves can improve. They’ve had issues.
The solution to tough times is simple: Keep showing up, keep playing.
“It’s part of it,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said Friday. “We’ve been through it every year that I’ve been here. And you know what, there’s spots like this. Every year I was a third-base coach here, I don’t care how good of a team we had, you had to get through situations like that. And always keep working and understand it’s a long season, we got four months of baseball left, we’re not going to win the division this week or next. So I mean, we just got to keep grinding through the whole thing.”
Entering Saturday, the Braves had lost three of four games on their road trip, including two losses to the Oakland Athletics, who are baseball’s worst team. And Atlanta had lost seven of 11 games, going back to the Dodgers series, when it arrived at Chase Field for Saturday’s game.
One unlikely culprit: The offense. The Braves’ talented, star-laden lineup has not clicked like it can.
Before Saturday, the Braves had scored nine runs over four games on this road trip. As a team, they’d hit .188.
On Saturday, the Braves scored five runs in a win. They displayed many encouraging signs offensively.
Time will tell if this continues.
“The baseball gods put you through this, but at some point, they’re going to reward you with some cheap runs, cheap knocks, timely hits, and that’s just part of the game, I feel like,” Riley said before the game.
Oakland has the highest walk rate of any pitching staff in baseball. Then the Athletics walked only six batters over 27 innings against the Braves.
In that Oakland series, Riley was just out in front of a ball and pulled it for a long foul ball. Other Braves had balls land in gloves at the warning track. On Friday, Travis d’Arnaud scorched a ball that seemed like it might be a go-ahead homer, but it found a glove.
And in Friday’s loss, Diamondbacks outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who made a nice catch on d’Arnaud’s ball, also executed an impressive throw to hit the cut-off man, which led to Matt Olson being caught between third and home.
These are the things that happen when the baseball gods aren’t shining on you.
“When things are going really well for you, the bleeders find holes, the jam-shots find the ground,” Riley said. “And then when things aren’t going well, the balls that you hit 110 (mph) are right at guys, and guys are making diving plays on you. It seems like when it rains, it pours. We’re in that stretch right now. It’s just a matter of continuing to come in every day and work and play our game every day until we get out of this rut.”
The offense has struggled. So has the bullpen. The starting pitching has been excellent.
The Braves are too talented. They will break out of this slump.
That much seems likely.
They believe they have the traits of a team who can make this a short-lived rut.
“I think the consistency in the work and coming to work every day and doing what you can to prepare for that game that day,” Snitker said. “It’s one of those things that these guys got a pretty good way about turning the page. Because you never know that day if you’re gonna come and it’s gonna be the day that you start something big. It’s just like a player that gets in a rut. If you give yourself a chance and continue to work and believe in yourself, then you’re gonna get out of it.”
Dylan Lee throwing
On May 19, the Braves placed lefty Dylan Lee on the 15-day injured list with left shoulder inflammation.
It appears he is working his way back. Snitker on Saturday said Lee is throwing.
“According to reports, he’s feeling good, so that’s a good thing,” Snitker said.
Snitker said Lee has not thrown off the mound. He’s only doing long toss.
Max Fried (forearm strain) has continued to throw. He hasn’t thrown from a mound either.
Spencer Strider making name for himself
Spencer Strider now comes with a reputation.
He’s one of the top starting pitchers in baseball. He’s must-see TV.
The Braves are happy when he pitches. Other teams are not.
“I mean, he’s not surprising anybody anymore,” Snitker said. “Just the body of work is such that guys are taking notice. I’m sure they’re looking at our rotation when we come into town to see if he’s in there or not. He’s putting himself in that category by what he’s been doing every time out.”
Strider was charged with two runs over six innings in the win.