Three Cuts: Braves’ bats flounder in loss to Brewers
Generally speaking, major league pitchers are ahead of hitters in late March. But that doesn’t necessarily absolve the Braves from only twice sending more than four batters to the plate — with both innings (2nd/5th) ending amid little fanfare.
There were a few fleeting chances of note:
In the 8th and 9th innings, respectively, Freddie Freeman (0 for 4) and Chris Johnson (one double) flirted with solo homers down the right- and left-field foul poles (both balls sailed foul by a few feet); and in the final inning, Evan Gattis represented the game-tying run before committing the final out — a strikeout.
Which brings us to this: Braves fans will have to tolerate the offense’s high strikeout tallies — again — since the lineup runs identical to last year; and for whatever reason, strikeouts are no longer viewed as the worst-case scenario with runners on base.
In the opener, the Braves (five hits, seven strikeouts) left seven runners stranded, with only Johnson reaching third base safely. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons stood as the only Atlanta batter to rack up multiple hits (two) in the loss.
A little credit goes to Yovani Gallardo (1-0), the Brewers’ embattled ace, who yielded just four hits in six innings. After that, a trio of Milwaukee relievers (Brandon Kintzler, Will Smith, Francisco Rodriguez) carried the club home for the last three innings.
Of course, Mike Minor (off-season surgery) will have plenty of time to be the club’s No. 1 pitcher upon returning from the disabled list.
But right now, with the Braves’ injury-riddled rotation (Teheran, Ervin Santana, Alex Wood, David Hale) in a state of flux, Teheran (14 wins, 3.20 ERA, 170 strikeouts as a rookie in 2013) has the look of an elite-level workhorse, someone who will have no trouble going eight or maybe nine innings in a few weeks.
Against the Brewers, Teheran allowed just seven hits and two runs over six strong innings, an efficient outing (two strikeouts) that also kept the Braves defenders sharp, as well.
The only hiccup: Against the heart of the Milwaukee lineup in the 4th, Teheran surrendered a leadoff walk to Jean Segura, a single to Ryan Braun (who promptly stole second after that) and then a two-run RBI double to Aramis Ramirez — the same Ramirez who notched a major league-leading 50 doubles two years ago.
Nothing beats the pomp and circumstance of Opening Day, especially when a particular city gets picture-perfect weather to launch a season. (Or in Milwaukee’s case, a toasty-warm retractable-roof stadium to call home.)
But it’s just one game, a largely meaningless experience within the scope of a 162-game marathon season.
To wit, of the last seven seasons (2007-13), the eventual world champion has only claimed victory on Opening Day twice.