Braves pitchers, hitters struggling in close-and-late situations

If you want to know why the Braves have been so close so many times this season, only to lose again and again in games decided by one or two runs, consider this stat:

In the late innings of close games, Braves hitters had the National League’s second-lowest batting average (.191) with far-and-away the NL’s lowest slugging percentage (.236) before Wednesday night’s game against Philadelphia. Meanwhile, Braves pitchers in those same situations had allowed the majors’ second-highest average (.302) and by far the highest OBP (.413).

The Braves have been out-hit .302-.191 and out-homered 8-1 in close-and-late situations.

Those numbers go a long way in explaining the 2-6 record in one-run decisions, the 1-21 record in games when tied or trailing after six innings, and 0-23 record when tied or trailing after eight innings.

“That’s something that’s maybe luck, or bad luck involved in it,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of the close-and-late hitting statistics. “Yesterday I think it was Nicky (Markakis), we had a man on third, to outs and lined it up the middle and the pitcher snared it. That kind of stuff. I think there is some luck involved in that, because we’ve hit the ball, we’ve put the ball in play at times. So hopefully that turns around.”

But that Markakis line-out to the pitcher came in the third inning of Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to the Phillies, not the late innings.

Adonis Garcia (7-for-14) and Markakis (5-for-15) were a combined 12-for-29 (.414) with seven RBIs in close-and-late situations before Wednesday, each with OBPs of .500 or higher. All other Braves were a combined 26-for-170 (.153) with eight RBIs in those situations. (Garcia is now at Triple-A Gwinnett).

The Braves have hit eight home runs, less than one-third the next-lowest total in the majors, 25 apiece by the Dodgers and Angels. And but one of the Braves’ eight homers came with bases empty. The exception was a two-run homer by Drew Stubbs, who’s now with Texas after being released by the Braves.

So, once the Braves get behind, they have to manufacture runs to try to get back into a tie game or take a lead, rather than count on getting a multi-run homer or even a solo homer.

The Braves were also last in the majors in most other standard offensive categories before Wednesday including OBP (.293), slugging percentage (.289; no other team below .357), and runs (92, exactly 100 fewer than the majors-leading Cubs). Their .225 batting average was second-lowest, ahead of the Rays (.223).

The Braves were the only major league team still without a triple, and their 43 doubles were tied for second-fewest in the majors before Wednesday.