It’s panic time for the Braves! (Yes, I’m kidding)

Andrew McCutchen scores past Braves catcher Travis d'Arnaud during the first inning of Thursday's Phillies-Braves game in Philadelphia.
Andrew McCutchen scores past Braves catcher Travis d'Arnaud during the first inning of Thursday's Phillies-Braves game in Philadelphia.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Slocum

It’s incumbent on those who make periodic appearances at a – figurative, in this case – pulpit to offer periodic admonitions. I could be held in dereliction of pundit duty if I didn’t say, re: the 0-3 Braves, “It’s fine. They’ll be fine.”

Such a sentiment was uttered two years ago, when they opened by getting similarly swept in Philadelphia, thereby falling three games behind the team that had just added Bryce Harper and was bound for infinity and beyond. Since that sweep, the Phillies are 109-113. The Braves are 122-90.

This is baseball. Most baseball seasons – last year’s was an exception – last forever. If an NFL team starts 0-3, it considers firing its coach. A baseball club at 0-3 is one that had a bad weekend, although the Braves’ weekend, in the grand scheme, wasn’t so wretched. Their team ERA is 3.81, eighth-best in MLB. They’ve made two errors. No pitcher hurt his arm or tore his Achilles.

The hitting? Well, it was almost non-existence. The Braves’ last lead came in the sixth inning of Game 7 of the NLCS. That happened on Oct. 18, 2020. The Braves’ three runs in Philly all came via the home run. Their OPS is .403, the worst in baseball by some distance. Here’s a prediction: That will change.

A team that starts 0-3 is a team that regards its next game as the chance to put things right. The Braves’ next game won’t come until Tuesday, if then. Their Monday game in Washington D.C. was postponed due to the Nationals’ COVID issues. The Nats’ weekend series with the Mets was likewise postponed, which is why we aren’t sitting around today wringing our hands over the ballyhooed Mets already holding a three-game lead on the Braves. The Mets haven’t won a game, either. (They also haven’t lost one.)

The Braves lost Game 1 of 2021 after Ozzie Albies was thrown out at home in the 10th inning. He doesn’t get thrown out at home often. They lost Game 2 when they mustered one baserunner in seven innings against Zack Wheeler. That were 0-for-0 with runners in scoring position Saturday. That doesn’t happen much, but it does happen. They’re 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position, the only hit being Pablo Sandoval’s two-run homer on Thursday. The Braves pitched pretty well in Philly, but they got outpitched. That happens, too.

The biggest worry coming off spring training was the Braves’ apparent thinness in position-playing reserves. Well, 66.7 percent of their runs to date have been driven in by a bench player. There’s your ray of sunshine.

It’s possible that the Braves could spend 159 more games doing what they just did – not hitting. Possible, but not in any way probable. Freddie Freeman was 0-for-9. Over the past five seasons, he has hit .300 four times; in the down year, he hit .295. Ronald Acuna didn’t score in Philly. Over his first three seasons, he scored 251 runs in 313 games; that’s an average of one run every 0.8 games. Albies went 0-for-12 with an OPS of .000. (His one appearance on base was due to being placed at second to open the 10th inning Thursday.) His OPS over his first four seasons was .797.

If your biggest concern involves the Braves’ 1, 2 and 3 hitters, then you have no concern. Said manager Brian Snitker: “I’m going to trust the consistency and past performances of these guys. They’re going to hit. They’re not going to not hit.”

Yeah, you’d rather be 3-0, or even 1-2, than 0-3. Yeah, a game in April counts just as much as one in September. If these were the rebuilding Braves of 2015, you might look at these three games and say, with some measure of conviction: “Folks, this is going to be a long year.” But these Braves aren’t rebuilding. These Braves are built. They had a bad weekend in Philly, but who among us hasn’t?

There aren’t many sure things in sports, but this much is known: These Braves can and will hit. They’ve lost three games. They’ll still win 100. It’s fine. They’ll be fine.

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