The Braves’ scuffling offense underwent a few changes prior to Friday’s game in Phoenix.
After scoring 12 runs over the last five games, manager Brian Snitker decided to alter his lineup. Ronald Acuna returned to leadoff. Dansby Swanson was bumped to No. 2 in front of Freddie Freeman. Josh Donaldson was plugged in at cleanup.
“I’ve been thinking about it, and I feel like things have been stagnant,” Snitker said. “We’re not hitting with runners in scoring position. It’s not any one thing pertinent to any one player, it’s just about the total scope of things. We’ll see. We’ll run with it for a while and see what happens.”
Considered the team’s strength, the offense has been hot and cold through 38 games. It’s particularly slowed down recently, when the Braves were swept in Los Angeles and managed only two runs in a series-opening loss to Arizona on Thursday.
“I’m OK with it,” Freeman said of the changes. “Sometimes you have to switch it up a little bit. You can’t just put the same thing out there expecting different results. It’s been five games in a row of three runs or less. So I like it. I like the thought process of moving guys around to get this offense going because we are really good. Everyone in this clubhouse knows we’re a good offense. Sometimes you just have to tweak it.”
Acuna was moved to leadoff in the second half of last season, where he ignited the offense that led the Braves to a postseason berth. He hit .322 with 19 homers, 15 doubles, four triples and 45 RBIs. He also stole four bases.
Preseason debate centered around Acuna’s lineup spot, when the Braves were considering moving him down to cleanup. They did so, but they’ve had less success at leadoff, where Ender Inciarte and Ozzie Albies have started the season.
“I like him hitting fourth, but it’s not about him, Ozzie, Josh, any one person,” Snitker said. “We’re just treading water right now and it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a couple days. I woke up this morning and thought ‘Why not?’ ”
When Donaldson signed with the Braves this winter, they declared him the No. 2 hitter. Donaldson won an MVP hitting second for the Blue Jays, under current Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos, in 2015. But Donaldson has had just 18 at-bats with runners in scoring position this season.
“I told Josh I just think we can maximize him better there,” Snitker said, adding Donaldson was receptive to moving away from his preferred spot. “This guy is capable of doing damage. He’s taking walks, getting on base, having good at-bats. Just put him in the mix there and maybe we can maximize things that we have.”