Braves suffer doubleheader from hell

Welcome to baseball’s version of the sci-fi classic “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”

Welcome to the doubleheader from hell.

Welcome to the most thorough examination of every flaw — both real and potential — running throughout the Braves roster that you can get without sending the entire team through airport security. It was a complete body scan of just how bad this team can look.

And for fans of short-attention-span no-hitters, this was your heaven. Madison Bumgarner, the man talked about as a possible free agent addition to the Braves staff this season, threw a seven-inning one against the Braves Sunday. And, on the undercard, fellow Diamondbacks starter Zac Gallen almost threw one, if not for Freddie Freeman’s sixth-inning desperate little single.

So, to recap, in one day over two shortened games in what passes for a doubleheader now in baseball, the Braves somewhat participated in 14 innings with Arizona Sunday. They were outscored 12-0. Outhit 18-1. And acted as the foil to a small bit of baseball history, Baumgarner’s sort-of no-no being the first of its kind since the powers that be decided to lop two innings off the hem of these pandemic-era twin bills.

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Also, it was the first time in Diamondbacks have thrown back-to-back shutouts — ever.

Why, it was the most special kind of moment for Arizona here in the greater Atlanta area since that night almost 17 years ago when one of their own, Randy Johnson, threw a perfect game at the Braves. Tequila shooters all around.

So, for them, it was, “an unbelievable day.” That from Arizona manager Torey Lovullo.

He added, “To have something like this happen, it’s fun, it’s special to every one of us watching in the dugout and watching at home.”

Not so much for those partial to the Braves. You might go so far as to say the day was really quite dreadful.

There will be plenty of discussion over whether Bumgarner’s no-hitter should be considered in any way legitimate. Record-keepers don’t. Arizona’s team Twitter site does, messaging the world: “IT COUNTS IN OUR BOOK. MADISON BUMGARNER HAS THROWN A NO-HIT GAME!” If you capitalize every letter, that apparently makes it at least quasi-official.

But, of course, it is no more a real no-hitter than the first three acts of Hamlet is complete Shakespeare.

Bumgarner doesn’t seem to mind much either way, speaking only briefly to a TV crew afterward. “It feels good,” he said. “I just want to say two things before I go celebrate with the guys: I want to thank these shadows in Atlanta. They helped me out a good bit. That was awesome. And I want to thank (baseball commissioner) Rob Manfred for making these seven-inning games.”

Not like the Braves really care to argue the point. If after a day such as this they didn’t feel like they got no-hit — or at least run over by a road grader — then they weren’t paying attention. Give the Braves seven more innings against Bumgarner Sunday, they still may have gone hitless. There was just that kind of ennui in the air over the first-base dugout.

Here you have the most maddening day on record of a so-far maddening young season. One of those free agent starters who was supposed to stabilize everything, Drew Smyly, gave up three home runs — and five runs total — in just four innings. While Arizona never bothered to warm up a reliever in two games, the Braves bullpen was kept busy mopping up a series of biohazards. And that offense that ranks 13th in the 15-team National League in batting average just bottomed out.

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

To Braves manager Snitker, someone tried to hang it on the bottom of the order — never mind that Bumgarner buzzed through Ronald Acuna (strikeout looking), Freddie Freeman (pop out) and Marcel Ozuna (one-pitch flyout to right) for his last three outs. “I hope all of ‘em start hitting, not just the bottom. The top, the middle and the end,” he said.

“One of them days. I don’t know, I can’t explain it,” Snitker said.

Managing such a mess on a team that harbors great ambition means having to shrug off the worst of days as an aberration.

Because if it isn’t, then let’s shutter up Truist Park right now.

“We haven’t hit a stride, we really haven’t hit on all cylinders yet,” Snitker said of his thus far mundane, 9-12 team. “We’re hanging in there but at some point things are going to start clicking on all cylinders and we can get on a run. But that’s not happening right now.”

No one can know what the other 141 games hold. But if at some point the Braves can’t look back upon this Sunday as the low point, the ebb tide, then woe unto them.