• Exclusives

    Skidding Braves welcome Cardinals

    It now appears that the hiccup in Miami was not a fluke. What was a 3-game sweep by the Marlins turned into a 6-game skid with a follow-up sweep by the San Francisco Giants of the Braves at Turner Field. Sunday’s 4-1 loss marked just the 1st time the Braves had been swept by the Giants in a 3-game set at home since June of 1988. The 6-game skid is the longest for Atlanta since an 8-game losing streak in the 2012 season. The Braves have now lost 6 games, a series on the road and a series at home, while struggling mightily with runners in scoring position.

    While there have certainly been mistakes made by Atlanta’s pitching, the few mistakes the Giants were able to capitalize on, the offense was to blame in the latest sweep. Unlike the series in Miami, Braves’ pitching was solid and offered the offense every opportunity to overcome the Giants. However, with a team .183 batting average and a total of 10 runs scored over 6 games, the best pitching can’t overcome a lack of offense. Over the last 7 games, the team has scored a total of 11 runs and more than 1 run in only 2 of those games.

    B.J. Upton is sporting new glasses and an improved on-base percentage in recent games.

    B.J. Upton is sporting new glasses and an improved on-base percentage in recent games.

    Before breaking down the offensive struggles of the Braves in the 6-game skid, first some good news. B.J. Upton is much improved on the bases, stealing his 7th bag Sunday after a double. B.J. is not only sporting new sports glasses, he’s sporting a much improved .350 OBP in the past 14 games.

    Breaking down the offense, or lack thereof, in the past 6 games:

    • Hitters in the 1 & 2 hole are hitting .282; Hitters 3-6 are hitting a paltry .119; 7-9 hitters are hitting .207.
    • Jason Heyward has improved to .292 (.327 OBP) since the 21st of April while teammate Freeman is in a massive slump hitting just .146 in that time.
    • Batters other than Freddie Freeman have now combined to go 8-for-94 (.085) with runners in scoring position and 2 outs.
    • Justin Upton, a notoriously good hitter in the month of April, has realized it is now May. Over his last 7 games he is hitting .158 with only 1 homer and 2 RBIs.
    • Uggla’s numbers have really put his starting job in question, but there is simply no better replacement for either him or Pena/Pastornicky’s spot on the bench. Tommy LaStella at Triple-A remains weeks away.

    Despite the recent skid of the Braves, Buster Olney of ESPN reports that Atlanta still sits 2nd in the power rankings. Like many of the players have noted over this brutal few games, everyone that follows baseball seems convinced that this could be the most potent offense in baseball when firing on all cylinders. The truth of that is clouded, of course, by the fact that we’ve only seen the team truly have a strong offensive game on a couple of occasions so far this season.

    While there were questions surrounding the bullpen in the last few days, Sunday’s game gave the Braves something positive to build on when Alex Wood left the game early, more out of concern for his innings pace than anything, David Hale came in to relieve him and eat up innings, and then the embattled Luis Avilan entered in a high pressure situation with the bases loaded to induce a quick double-play grounder. (A note on Wood’s pitch count and innings count: Wood had thrown 104 pitches through 5 innings Sunday. In his 2 8-inning appearances this season, he threw 103 and 101 pitches. In addition to the concern for his pitch count, the Braves are keeping a close eye on his innings pitched. He currently has 45 IP on the season.)

    One concern apparent during the Giants’ series was the 3 straight games where the Braves tied the game only to give the lead right back on homer the following inning. Luckily for the Braves, all but one of the homers in the series by the Giants were solo shots. The damage could have been much worse.

    Closer Craig Kimbrel, vying to pass John Smoltz for most saves in the franchise, has not had a save since the 26th of April. He has He has pitched only once (May 2nd) in the 9 days since his last save.

    BRAVES LOOK TO SNAP SKID AGAINST ST. LOUIS…

    The Braves have activated Gavin Floyd, sending Ian Thomas to Triple-A Gwinnett. Floyd will start in the place of Santana on Tuesday. Santana will miss his start due to a swollen thumb. Apparently against the Reds, Santana bruised his right thumb when he got jammed on pitch by Homer Bailey. During his next start in Miami, his thumb continued to swell to the point where he could no longer grip the baseball. The swelling forced him out of the game early. The thumb is healing and should only force him to miss one start.

    Gavin Floyd is returning from Tommy John surgery after injuring the elbow ligament pitching with the White Sox. Floyd has a career 4.48 ERA in 10 years in the big leagues. He has an even .500 record (70-70).

    It appears that the role for Floyd with the team with be spot starts and a place in the bullpen as both the long man and a versatile reliever.

    There truly is only one goal going into the series against the Cardinals: Break the 6-game losing streak. The Cardinals come into the series having narrowly avoided a sweep at the hands of the Cubs at Wrigley Field. The Cardinals, much like the Braves, aren’t one of the better teams at scoring runs. The Cardinals were the best team in the National League last season at scoring runs. This season they are in the bottom of the pack. They’ve yet to see notable offense from Allen Craig, Matt Carpenter or Peter Bourjos. In fact, they sent Kolton Wong down to Triple-A because of a lack of offense and have plugged in rehabbed Mark Ellis in his spot.

    The Cardinals send Shelby Miller (3-2, 3.15) to the mound against Aaron Harang (3-2, 2.97) tonight. Tyler Lyons (0-2, 4.20) will face Gavin Floyd in his Braves’ debut. And the series finale will feature Adam Wainwright (5-2, 2.16) against Mike Minor (0-1, 3.00).

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch.