Freddie Freeman had three hits including a two-run single in the ninth inning Saturday, but the Braves lost 6-5 to the Cardinals. (AP photo)

Waiting to score late not a good winning formula

ST. LOUIS – When the Braves scored two runs in the ninth inning Saturday and stranded two to end their 6-5 loss to the Cardinals, it served as a microcosm for much of Atlanta’s season.

Score plenty of runs late, but more often than not still lose.

They entered Sunday with 197 runs in the seventh inning or later, third-most in the majors behind the Astros (224) and Yankees (207). But the Astros had the American League’s best record (71-45) and the Yankees (61-54) led the AL wild-card standings before Sunday, while the Braves were 51-63, the fourth-worst record in the National League and 18 games behind NL East leader Washington before Sunday.

“These guys always do that,” manager Brian Snitker said after his Braves loaded the bases in the ninth inning Saturday and got a two-run single from Freddie Freeman against Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal, before Nick Markakis struck out to end the game. “One thing about this club, I don’t care where we are, we’ve got a great ability to separate every day and go out and do whatever we can to go out and do whatever we can to try to win that day. 

“And these guys never don’t give you a hard 27 outs. They’re never out of a game and they keep coming at you.”

Of the Braves’ 51 wins before Sunday, 27 came in games in which they came from behind including each of their past three wins. They were 9-2 in games that were tied after eight innings.

But they were also just 4-55 when trailing after seven innings, an indication of why waiting until the late innings to score isn’t a winning strategy so much as it is simply a sign of not giving up – which is good, of course, but not preferable to scoring plenty early and cruising to a bunch of wins.

The Braves were fifth-worst in the majors in scoring from the first through sixth innings with 321 runs before Sunday, ahead of only the Angels and three of the four NL teams with rose records than the Braves: the Padres, Giants and Phillies.

Meanwhile, the Astros led in run scored from the first through sixth innings (447) just as they led in scoring after the sixth.

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