Another September swoon for the Braves

If it feels like September and swoon have become synonymous with the Braves in the Fredi Gonzalez era, that’s partly true.

In 2011 the Braves fell apart in spectacular fashion, losing 20 of their last 30 games and missing the postseason after blowing an 8 1-2-game lead in the wild card race with less than a month to go. It was one of the worst collapses in baseball history by a would-be playoff team.

But a year later, they went 20-10 with a 2.41 ERA in their last 30 games to earn a wild-card berth, then lost to St. Louis at Turner Field in the inaugural NL Wild Card game that will be forever remembered for the highly questionable infield fly ruling instead of a sloppy defensive inning by the Braves that propelled the Cardinals.

In 2013, the Braves split the difference, building a comfortable division lead before going 16-14 in their last 30 games.

Which brings us to this dreadful September.

For the month, the Braves had a majors-worst .204 batting average and majors-worst 3-11 record before Wednesday, but their offensive woes began well before the calendar turned from August to September. This has been the streakiest lineup in baseball this season, and arguably the most flawed and fundamentals-challenged offense in the NL.

After leading the NL with 181 homers in 2013, the Braves ranked 21st in the majors with 118 homers before Wednesday, while a dozen teams had 143 or more including Washington (145). Four teams ha 156 or more led by Baltimore (196) and Colorado (170). Again, the Braves had 118, and have not had a single multi-homer game in their past 25 games.

Offensive woes: The Braves were tied for 26th in the majors in slugging percentage (.365) before Wednesday, while tied for 23rd in OBP (.307), and tied for 23rd in average (.243). That's a bad combination – poor slugging, poor OBP — and the Braves were 26th in average with runners in scoring position (.240) and dead last in sacrifice flies (26).

Their offensive woes have only worsened since the All-Star break. Even the Rangers (194) and Padres (208) had scored more runs since the All-Star break than the Braves, whose 185 runs since the break were fewer than every team except the Reds (182).

Meanwhile, the Cubs and Marlins are the only NL teams that struck out more than the Braves since the break, while the Reds (.328) are the only major league team with a lower slugging percentage than the Braves (.344) since the break.

Some of the Braves’ key guys have struggled the most at the worst possible time.

Justin Upton’s .133 average in September was second-lowest among NL regulars, ahead of only Cincinnati’s Javier Baez (.130). Derek Jeter (.111) was the only other major league qualifier with a lower average for the month.

In his past 21 games, Upton had hit .169 (13-for-77) with two homers, four walks, 23 strikeouts and a .229 OBP.

Chris Johnson hit .185 (15-for-81) with one extra-base hit (double), three RBIs, seven walks, 25 strikeouts and five double plays grounded into in his past 23 games before Wednesday, and had one RBI in his past 13 games.

Andrelton Simmons, after starting July with six consecutive two-hit games, hit .208 (40-for-192) in his past 53 games before Wednesday with a .259 OBP, .281 slugging percentage and 10 double plays grounded into.

Jason Heyward, who’s had a solid season since the second month, has not been immune to the recent offensive woes. He was 13-for-56 (.232) in his past 15 games with no homers, four RBIs, a .295 OBP and .304 slugging percentage.