Braves pitcher Bartolo Colon reacts to giving up five runs to the Pittsburgh Pirates during the second inning Thursday at SunTrust Park. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Braves’ strange homestand has familiar ending: Colon grease fire

The Braves left for a 10-day road trip Thursday night, and it’s probably for the best because it is going to take everybody in Atlanta at least that long to process what just happened to the team on this homestand. Along the roller coaster we go …

Freddie Freeman suffered a broken wrist. … Jason Motte was called a homophobic slur. … The Atlanta-Toronto hate quotient hadn’t been this high since we hung the maple-leaf flag upside down in a World Series. … Julio Teheran beaned Jose Bautista for a bat-flip, which led to a three-run first and a 9-0 loss. … Doom, doom, doom, we projected. … Then …

(Tunnel ahead.)

The Braves beat Washington twice. … They sign James Loney. … They trade for Matt Adams. … The scorned Loney walks. … Adams homers in consecutive games and hits a walk-off single against Pittsburgh in a game that ends at 2 a.m. after a three-hour rain delay. … Also, the evacuation alarm went off in SunTrust Park. (No worries. Just a small grease fire. Bartolo Colon was fixing a snack.)

(Jimmy Buffet lyric: “Watch out for that gravity storm.”)

The Braves announce a $39 monthly pass for June, devaluing the product to $2.17 per game. … An overzealous usher takes a baseball from a helpless child. A man sitting nearby had reached over the stands for the ball (a no-no) and handed it to the kid before he was ejected. … The Braves give the kid a Freddie Freeman autographed ball to make up for it. Too late. The mojo was tumbling downhill … The devalued team blows a 5-3 lead in the ninth and loses 12-5 when reliever Josh Collementer is clubbed for seven runs in the 10th inning and is DFA’d about seven minutes later.

Have a feeling we’re back where we started with this team?

Pretty much. The Braves lost to Pittsburgh on Thursday, 9-4. What had the potential to be a pretty good homestand, notwithstanding the Freeman injury, unraveled at the end and wound up at 5-4.

So past the quarter turn and at the 45-game mark, the Braves are 20-25. If you like scrappy teams that can score runs but too often are just good enough to lose, these are your guys.

Don’t blame the players in the lineup. This game perfectly illustrated the biggest problem. The Braves needed a solid performance from Colon. Instead, they got a softball pitcher.

Colon, the too-old tub of goo, was shelled for five runs, six hits and a three-run homer in the third inning. By the time of his exit after five innings, he had allowed seven runs, 10 hits, a homer and three walks, and the Braves trailed 7-0.

Colon remains a $12.5 million mistake. Other than his salary, an upcoming bobblehead night and the public humiliation of admitting this was a bad signing, there’s no obvious reason why the Braves keep putting him out there.

His ERA is 6.96. In baseball terms, he’s clinically dead in 17 states. He has allowed five or more runs in five of his 10 starts, including four of the past six. He has allowed 29 runs in 29 innings in his past six starts. Easy math: 9.00 ERA.

Manager Brian Snitker was asked if he planned to continue to start Colon.

Answer: “Right now. As of right now, yes.”

He was asked what gives him confidence Colon will turn it around.

Answer: “I have to look at his track record. I have to believe that a guy who survived the league as long as he has will figure out a way to make the adjustments he needs to be successful.”

Here’s what he didn’t say: There’s a point in any athlete’s career when age (44) trumps veteran experience. Colon is at that point.

There’s another unfortunate truth that Snitker would never admit publicly: This isn’t his choice. He’s playing the hand that management dealt him. If the Braves are going to dump Colon, the decision will be made by the front office, not the manager who’s on a one-year contract.

Two of the hits in the Pittsburgh third inning never left the infield. The defense could have been better. But Colon said, “I can’t put it on the defense. It’s on me. I was the one who was hit hard.”

He said he fell behind the count too often. He said he feels good and has all season. He suggested he’s still confident he can turn it around. Why?

“God willing, we’re all going to continue to improve,” he said through an interpreter. “And, yeah, there’s some things I need to continue to work on and improve on. But hopefully we’ll continue to improve.”

The Braves head West for series against San Francisco and the Los Angeles Angels and then to Cincinnati. None of those teams qualify as impressive. So yes, the Braves have shown an ability to squeeze out wins with their offense. But at some point, logic suggests they will feel the impact of Freeman’s loss. A weak starting rotation and overtaxed bullpen also tends to bury a team.

The Braves just finished a homestand where we saw a little bit of everything. But at the end, what we saw was too familiar, and the Braves can’t let it continue for much longer.

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