Bradley’s Buzz: The soaring Braves slog through a sobering weekend

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

This is what happens when you face a deep lineup without Max Fried or Kyle Wright – or without the kind of pitchers Michael Soroka and Ian Anderson once were. The Braves needed to score two in the eighth and another in the ninth to win on the night Spencer Strider worked. In the cold light of hindsight, they were fortunate not to get swept.

Over 36 innings, the Padres scored 25 runs on 35 hits. The Braves’ last lead of the series came in the ninth inning of Thursday’s Game 1. Their pitchers issued 21 walks, plus two hit batsmen, plus six wild pitches. Their starters’ ERA was 7.52. The Braves were outhomered 6-2. It was a rough weekend. Perhaps it was inevitable.

Of the Braves’ first 10 games, four were started by Jared Shuster and Dylan Dodd. The Braves were 1-3 in those games. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, it’s the first time since the club moved here in 1966 that 40 percent of their first 10 games have featured rookie starters. Bryce Elder, who’s not a rookie but who wasn’t on the Opening Day roster, had one start and is scheduled to work Monday against the Reds.

Over 10 games, the Braves managed two quality starts. (Tampa Bay, which hasn’t lost, has managed seven in nine.) We stipulate that Fried is hurting and Wright is about to come off rehab. We stipulate that Charlie Morton, whose rookie season was in 2008, has yielded 15 hits, five walks and one HBP in 10-1/3 innings. Morton’s WHIP is 1.935. Shuster’s is 2.423, Dodd’s 1.821.

The Braves’ ERA is the eighth-lowest in the majors. They have, however, walked 41, the eighth-most among 30 MLB clubs. You can get away with that against the Nationals. You can’t against a lineup that includes Manny Machado, Xander Bogaerts, Juan Soto and Nelson Cruz. One bit of luck: The Braves’ final regular-season game against San Diego is April 19; Fernando Tatis returns from PED suspension April 20.

The Padres have the sort of hitters that can subsist off good pitching and feast on the substandard kind. In sum, they have the kind of hitters the Braves have – although by the series finale the Braves were minus Michael Harris and Travis d’Arnaud, injured in Games 1 and 3, respectively.

Not to put to fine a point on it, but the series surely meant a tad more to the visitors. The Padres were 3-3 when they arrived in Cobb County. They fell below .500 after the Braves’ Thursday walk-off win. This is a team that has the sport’s fattest payroll not including the New York clubs. The vaunted Soto managed four hits over the season’s first eight games; he had that many in the final two games here.

As rough as the weekend was, it was just that – one weekend in a six-month season. Wright is ready to return. Fried and Harris and d’Arnaud shouldn’t be gone long. Vaughn Grissom’s OPS at Gwinnett is 1.154; over eight games, he has five walks against zero strikeouts.

Taking a dip into the timeless tome “Ball Four,” we recall what Jim Bouton’s fellow pitchers said after the callow Seattle Pilots – they became the Milwaukee Brewers after one season – ran afoul of the Orioles of Frank/Brooks Robinson and Boog Powell: “Those guys can fluff up your ERA.” That’s what the Padres did to the local team. But that’s all they did.

The Braves, who started 6-1, are 6-4. They lead the National League East. Among NL clubs, only the Brewers, on a seven-game tear, have won more. To borrow the title of a very good TBS documentary of the fondly remembered 1982 season, it’s a long way to October. The Braves need to pitch better. They will.

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