Three Cuts: Mets deliver another loss as lack of timely hitting dooms Braves
JUL 10, 2014 12:05a ET
The Atlanta Braves dropped their third straight game in New York to the Mets, and fourth in a row overall, with a 4-1 loss Wednesday. The Braves outhit the Mets, but a timely two-run bomb by Travis d'Arnaud in the seventh inning sealed the deal for the home team. Here are three observations from this hump-day defeat:
1. WHILE IT WAS FUNNY TO WATCH FRANK THE TANK GO STREAKING IN "OLD SCHOOL," THIS BRAVES STREAK ISN'T CAUSING ANY CHUCKLES
The Braves dropped the getaway game Sunday in Atlanta, and haven't won a game since landing in New York. That's four losses in a row for a team that was playing pretty good baseball recently.
"We just came out of a nine-game winning streak four days ago," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez after Wednesday's loss. "It's the same team that won nine, same lineup--same team. We're going through a little streak right now. We went through a good streak by winning nine. Now we're going through a four-game losing streak (where) we're not scoring runs."
Over its four losses, Atlanta has averaged two runs per game, scoring three on Monday and Tuesday, sandwiched by single-run efforts Sunday and Wednesday. During their nine-game winning streak, the Braves averaged 5.6 runs per game, never scored fewer than three in a game, and twice put up a 10-spot.
What's the difference?
Gonzalez doesn't think the Braves are doing what needs to be done with runners on base.
"We had some opportunities to score and we didn't, said Gonzalez. "So we ended up losing the game.
"When we won nine in a row, we were getting two-out hits, we were driving in runs (using) situational hitting, and obviously we're not doing that now."
The Braves were 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position Wednesday. The team was 3 for 13 in Tuesday's loss, 1 for 11 on Monday, and 1 for 7 in the loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks Sunday. That's a 5-for-38 (.136) stretch with runners in scoring position.
To compound the troubles even further, while the Braves haven't been driving in runs with men in scoring position, they haven't been hitting the long ball either. Atlanta has zero home runs during the four-game losing streak, and only four extra-base hits--all doubles.
The Braves are getting almost no timely hitting at all. In three of the four losses, Atlanta has outhit its opponent. Those baserunners are just being stranded. When 36 of a team's 40 hits are singles, it's hard to really get runners chugging around the basepaths.
Speaking of a power outage ... Atlanta ranks at the bottom of the league for July with only one home run. For a team that averaged approximately 24 home runs per month from April to June, one dinger in the first nine days of the month is unfathomable.
2. TOMMY LA STELLA IS A MULTI-HIT MACHINE
Rookie second baseman Tommy La Stella has played 39 games in the big leagues. He seems to be catching on to playing at the highest level.
La Stella broke into the majors with a 2-for-4 night--not bad for a debut. Three games later he went 2 for 3. Then, La Stella went 2 for 3 the next game, 2 for 4 the following game, and 2 for 4 two games later.
Eight games into La Stella's career in the majors, he was 11 for 26 (.423), with five multi-hit games. Now that the rookie has 39 games under his belt, his batting average has dropped to a still-eyebrow raising .303, and he has reached base with a hit at least twice in a game 14 times.
Think about that for a moment.
In 36 percent of the games La Stella has played, he's hit safely at least twice. In 12 other games, he's knocked just one base hit. That means in almost 67 percent of this rookie's big-league games, he's connected for a base hit.
La Stella only has eight extra-base hits (seven doubles and a triple), which somewhat lends to the lack-of-power issue the Braves are suffering through this month. But more frequently than not, La Stella provides this team a base runner. Eventually the bats will wake, and the frequently-on base La Stella can score some runs.
3. WINNING THURSDAY IS IMPORTANT FOR TWO REASONS--AT LEAST
With the Braves' loss to the Mets, and the Washington Nationals win over the Baltimore Orioles Wednesday, the Nats (49-40) are a game ahead of the Braves (49-42), with four games left to play before the All-Star break.
A loss to the Mets on Thursday would mean a four-game sweep. The last time Atlanta was swept in a four-game series by New York was in April of 2012. A loss Thursday would also make the fifth time this season the Braves haven't won a game in a series.
The Miami Marlins swept the Braves in three games from April 29 to May 1. The San Francisco Giants added on, and swept the Braves in three games from May 2-4. Then the Seattle Mariners took a two-game series from Atlanta in early June, before the Philadelphia Phillies won three in a row from June 16-18.
The Braves were only swept three times last season.
The other reason the Braves need a win Thursday is to keep from losing any more ground to the Nationals. Atlanta travels to Chicago on Friday to play three games against the Cubs before the All-Star break. Washington plays against the Phillies for their final three games prior to the Midsummer Classic.
After the break, the Nationals have their hands full with the Milwaukee Brewers, and then a road trip to Colorado, Cincinnati and Miami. A lead over the division-rival Braves while the players not in Minneapolis are resting, could help build some confidence for that nasty road trip befalling Washington soon.