Here are three things we learned from the Braves’ 8-3 loss to the Tigers, as Detroit (13-10) earned a series sweep over the National League’s best team:
1. Two related stats might best explain the Braves’ Sunday troubles
Atlanta was 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position.
The Braves (15-9) also left 20 men on base for the evening, with every member of the starting nine being responsible for at least one runner.
Simply put, it was a night of missed opportunities — excluding the fourth inning, when a Justin Upton single, Freddie Freeman hit-by-pitch, Chris Johnson double and Evan Gattis single spurred on three runs, momentarily squaring the score at 3-all.
Johnson, by the way, was the only Braves player with two hits against the Tigers and starter Doug Fister, who is now 4-0 (with a 2.38 ERA) for the year. And Freeman (1 for 3) led the LOB parade, stranding a team-high four runners for Atlanta.
2. There aren’t many signs of an impending Mike Minor slump
It had been a long time since Minor (six strikeouts, two walks in 6.2 innings) bore the responsibility for six runs in a single game — May 16 of last year against the Marlins.
And of his previous 56 innings leading up to Sunday, spanning nine starts, the southpaw had surrendered a grand total of eight runs, for a cumulative ERA of 1.29.
One more thing: Of his last 20 starts, factoring in four full months of pitching, Minor posted only one outing of three or more walks.
Bottom line: Minor won’t see many lineups like the Tigers over the next five months; so, giving up six runs (and homers to Austin Jackson and Omar Infante) on a rainy April night has the appearance of an isolated concern.
3. The Braves’ status in the NL East hasn’t really changed in the last two weeks
You’d think a 3-7 road trip (not to mention an April 17 home loss to Kansas City) in the season’s first month would vanquish a divisional lead for just about any team.
But during this span, Atlanta’s short-term misery also was replicated by Miami (3-7), New York (3-7) and Washington (4-6), with only the embattled Phillies (6-4) posting a winning record.
In other words, the Braves’ ugliest stretch of the season . . . may not prove to be so bad in the end. That’s something to behold, since the club remains a solid bet for 92 or more victories.
3b. Sweep aside, Atlanta wouldn’t mind seeing Detroit again
This weekend may have produced a one-sided result, but there’s nothing too definitive to glean from it — should the Tigers and Braves reach the World Series in October.
In June 2006, Detroit swept St. Louis in Detroit, taking the three games by a 21-13 count. But when the clubs met again four months later in the Fall Classic, the Cardinals cruised to a championship in five games — with the Tigers coming unglued on defense for the final three contests.
That playoff series was a prime example of why the media-friendly phrase “World Series preview” should be mocked at every turn.
Yes, the ’06 Cardinals and Tigers had some familiarity with each other, stemming from that Interleague matchup during the summer.
But very few regular season games can match the pressure of the postseason . . . and Detroit, at the time, had no way of simulating that kind of anxiety leading up to the World Series.