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Cast of rookies provide reasons for Braves’ optimism despite record

WASHINGTON – After big left-hander Luiz Gohara held the Nationals to six hits and one earned run in six innings with no walk and six strikeouts for his first win in his second major league start Wednesday, fellow Braves rookies Dan Winkler, A.J. Minter and Lucas Sims pitched a scoreless inning apiece to close out the 8-2 win, the three relievers allowing a total of one run with no walks and six strikeouts.

Throw in the production from rookie middle infielders Ozzie Albies (one hit, two walks, one RBI) and Dansby Swanson (two-run tie-breaking single in six-run seventh inning) and rookie outfielder Lane Adams (three hits, one walk), and the game was a microcosm of sorts for what manager Brian Snitker views as the most encouraging aspect of the Braves’ season.

“It would be great to finish out strong,” said Snitker, whose Braves won six of seven games and were going for a three-game sweep of the Nationals in Thursday night’s series finale. “Every year is challenging but we went through a lot this year. Right now you like to be a big positive just with all the young guys we have up here and how well they’re doing. You look at everybody that pitched for us last night, all the rookie guys, the two kids up the middle. 

“So that’s a very positive light, I think, on everything, how those guys are responding, performing, adjusting and competing.”

The Braves went into a tailspin after getting their record to 45-45 on July 26, losing 22 of their next 37 games before the uptick in the past week. They needed only three more wins entering Thursday to surpass their win total from last season’s 68-93 season, but the Braves would have to go 15-3 the rest of the way to avoid their third consecutive losing season, their longest such stretch since seven sub-.500 seasons in a row from 1984-1990.

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It’s uncertain whether they will exercise an option year on Snitker’s contract in 2018 or re-sign him, the late-season swoon likely having hurt his chances. But if there’s one thing he and his coaches can hang their hat on it’s the performance of so many of the prospects, rookies and other young players.

“A lot of guys have come a long way this year,” Snitker said. “(Johan) Camargo, Dansby, Ozzie, all the pitching. I look at Folty (pitcher Mike Foltynewicz), he’s almost like a rookie; he’s been around a little bit but this is his first beginning-to-end full season to start. It’s really good how they’ve handled themselves and competed, and the confidence they’ve been playing with.”

Whether it’ll be enough for Snitker to keep the job remains to be seen, but the youthful Braves have at least provided some positives for the Braves down the stretch drive, and a rebuilt farm system rated as baseball’s deepest figures to keep producing high-level talent for years to come.

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