Atlanta, Get Out Of Your Own Way!
The Atlanta Braves lost a close one, 8-6 yesterday to the visiting Boston Red Sox. It shouldn’t have been a loss or even a close loss at all, since the struggling Sox were on an 0-10 skid before coming to Atlanta and Turner Field, and frankly they should still be on that skid if not for some sketchy pitching, once again, from Ervin Santana.
I don’t wish to be too hard on Ervin Santana of course, but I’ve had my doubts all along as to whether Santana could maintain the kind of command he had in April, where by his last start that month he had managed an amazing 1.95 ERA. Since the first of May though, Santana’s ERA has slowly but surely began to balloon to his current 4.06 ERA. The majority of that inflation has come in the last three starts for Ervin, where in each of those starts he’s given up at least five earned runs.
With Clay Buchholz struggling as well, and again I might add, the Atlanta Braves jumped all over him for an early 6-1 lead after four innings, but as the old saying goes it only takes one mistake to lose a baseball game. There were several, but the big mistake was Santana hanging a pitch right over the middle to Boston’s David Ortiz in the the fifth inning. That had to be one of the most pathetic pitches I’ve seen from a solid starter, right into David’s wheelhouse, and then right over the fence! There can be no excuse for such a pitch from a veteran like Santana, and thankfully Ervin Santana offered none in post-game interviews. He simply blew it, and he knew it.
Some PositivesOffensively, the Braves as a whole are playing much better in recent games, although we are still seeing a lack of patience at the plate, a tendency to swing at too many first pitches, and making little effort to hit to fields that will score runs. All too often we see Braves’ batters still trying to power the ball out of the park instead of making small adjustments to their stance, and making a concerted effort to get base hits and score runs. This team, in my opinion, is NOT strictly a power team, and need to stop acting like they are if they hope to continue to win games. You know another old saying – most teams that live by the long ball die by the long ball.
Some positives that we are seeing are improvements in Jason Heyward‘s work as leadoff hitter, Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton‘s continued and solid approach at the plate, and really solid defense. Let’s not forget as well how solid our middle relief has been since David Hale and Alex Wood took up residence there, and while we’ve seen a few hiccups from a few starters, our rotation is still pitching exceptionally well!
Some Lingering Negatives
Where we are still seeing major issues is Chris Johnson not driving the ball to the opposite field as he showed so adeptly last season, too much of a tendency from Andrelton Simmons to try and hit for power, and while we’ve seen more solid contact from B.J. Upton lately, I still think he has primarily a one-dimensional approach at the plate. He makes contact, but normally only with slower cures and sliders, and he tends to hit too often to center. At times, it seems like he has little ability to do anything else.
The good news is that all these issues are small issues, and quite easily fixed with a touch of patience and thought to each at-bat. I would love to see the Braves stop this tendency to swing at first pitches so much. We will see them go one game infinitely patient, and then the very next game lose that patience entirely. I want to see the Braves’ batters make some small adjustments in their at-bats, and stop swinging for the fences with oblique-pinching abandon!
This team can still surprise us, and they have much, much more talent than they often allow themselves to show. Often any team’s biggest enemy is itself, and the Braves would do well to let the other team be that enemy, and stop giving games away.