Braves’ increasing errors and unearned runs are alarming

Bartolo Colon trudges off the field during a nine-run third inning Tuesday, when the Braves made three errors and other defensive mistakes and added seven unearned runs allowed to their majors-leading total. (AP photo)
Bartolo Colon trudges off the field during a nine-run third inning Tuesday, when the Braves made three errors and other defensive mistakes and added seven unearned runs allowed to their majors-leading total. (AP photo)

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Braves’ defensive shortcomings were on full display Tuesday when the team played its sloppiest inning in recent franchise history, a three-error, nine-run Angels third inning that saw Bartolo Colon become the first pitcher to ever allow seven unearned runs in an interleague game.

The Braves had a majors-worst 36 unearned runs allowed in 50 games before Wednesday, while 15 teams had fewer than 20 unearned runs and the National League East-leading Nationals had just 13 in 51 games.

Then the Braves made three more errors and allowed another unearned run Wednesday in a 2-1 loss to the Angels in the series finale.

“It bothers you because this is the major leagues and that shouldn’t happen,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said after Tuesday’s 9-3 loss, adding that he’d never seen an inning like that third inning at any level — minor leagues or majors — in 41 years of pro ball. “That’s one thing these guys should be able to do is make plays.”

Entering Wednesday, the Braves had 38 errors and were tied for the National League’s lowest fielding percentage (.980). Only the Dodgers had more errors, with 39, and they had played three fewer games than the Braves, who pushed their error total to 41 with their second consecutive three-error game Wednesday.

“You can’t give teams extra outs,” Snitker said before Wednesday’s game. “I mean, it’s like we saw last night, it’s hard enough to get three outs in an inning, let alone four and five. So it’s something we have to address. Because we’re not built to do that. We’re going to have to be able to catch the ball and get outs when they’re presented.”

After making seven errors in the first six games of the season, the Braves cleaned things up for a while with 18 errors (.985 fielding percentage) in a 32-game stretch from April 11 through May 18.

But they’ve gotten sloppy again lately with 16 errors in their past 13 games including five multi-error games in the past 11, a period in which they played without injured first baseman Freddie Freeman and also without injured third baseman Adonis Garcia for much of that stretch.

Shortstop Dansby Swanson had an error in each of the last two games in the Angels series to give him 11 for the season, more than double the next-highest total among Braves and only six more than the entire Kansas City Royals team had before Wednesday.

Snitker said there were no easy answers to cutting down the Braves’ mistakes. They need to be a good defensive team if they’re to be a good team, period. Braves pitchers ranked last in the majors in strikeouts before Wednesday. They have a lot of pitchers who try to get hitters to put the ball in play.

They need to be able to depend on the defense.

“They’re out here working every day,” Snitker said of the defenders. “They’re doing extra work every day, turning double plays, doing all the feel-and-touch drills — we’re doing everything we can to put the best defensive club out there. It’s about the way we’re attacking some of the balls in the games and things like that, just not doing a good job quite honestly. We’ve got to do a better job with that.”