Many growing pains for Braves and young pitchers

WASHINGTON — The Braves’ 6.11 ERA in August was a full half-run higher than the next worst in the majors, and they also had the majors’ worst marks for the month in opponents’ batting average (.289), opponents’ slugging percentage (.855) and home runs allowed (42).

So when it was mentioned to Fredi Gonzalez on Thursday afternoon that Matt Wisler had been the worst in the league at retiring leadoff hitters, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez shrugged, as if to say, add it to the list. The Braves have plenty of other things to work on with their young pitching staff.

And it would certainly help those pitchers if the offense could score a few more runs once in a while – they were 29th in the majors in runs and 30th in homers in August — and play airtight defense. They need all the help them can get right now.

“No,” Gonzalez said, when asked if he knew that particular Wisler statistic, “but that’s one of the things that young pitchers go through – (struggling with) the first inning of the game; getting the third out of an inning, and we’ve see that a lot – they get two quick outs and next thing you know it’s bases loaded and 12 pitches later. Long innings, to go back out there and get that first out…. There’s a lot of stuff that a young pitcher’s got to experience.”

The Braves have three rookies in their current starting rotation, with rookie Manny Banuelos having returned to the rotation this week after a stint on the disabled list, and rookie Mike Foltynewicz scratched from his Monday start due to illness and then placed on the 15-day DL with a rib-cage irritation. The others are Wisler and Williams Perez, who has struggle mightily since returning from a stint on the DL.

Foltynewicz is 1-4 with a 6.47 ERA and .313 opponents’ average and nine homers allowed in six starts (32 innings) since returning to the rotation after a stint in Triple-A and a brief period in the bullpen.

Wisler went 0-4 with a 7.85 ERA and .342 opponents’ average in six August starts, including 0-3 in the past three before facing the Nationals in Thursday night’s series opener. Wisler was 2-4 with a 6.53 ERA and .333 opponents’ average in eight road starts before Thursday, with 10 homers allowed in 40 innings.

Perez was 0-6 with a 9.50 ERA and a .349 opponents’ average in seven starts since returning from the DL, with more walks (20) than strikeouts (14) in 36 innings.

One thing they all have in common: They’ve given up runs early in games lately, as has two-time opening-day starter Julio Teheran, who is 3-3 with a 4.84 ERA in his past eight starts, with eight homers allowed in 41 1/3 innings over his past seven.

“We’re not built for that,” Gonzalez said of the early multi-run deficits. “Offensively we’re not built for that. We’re built more to stay in the game, keep it a 1-1 game or 2-2 game, and able to manufacture some runs. So far this year we haven’t been able to come back from big deficits, because we don’t have that power. We don’t have a base on balls, an error and somebody gets a three-run bomb and we get back in it.”