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Ashway: Braves have looked woeful on West Coast trip

POSTED: August 6, 2014 10:55 a.m.
 

Alright, everyone, gather ‘round the Festivus Pole! Time for an Airing of Grievances.

The Braves just went 0-for-California.

Not that we thought they were incapable of losing six straight games. They managed to drop seven straight starting on April 29, right after their much-reminisced 17-7 start.

But this feels quite different, doesn’t it? This streak follows three months of mediocre baseball. The Braves went 13-16 in May, 15-13 in June, and 13-13 in July. That’s half a season right there: 41-42. All that will do is keep the Braves from extending their streak of winless playoff series.

This appears to be the team the Braves are: one that can’t hit enough to be a consistent winner, one weak on fundamentals, one with no sense of urgency, one that’s painful to watch. Excruciating.

You can watch a lot of baseball without seeing a team fail to score with the bases loaded and no outs. To witness a team do it twice in the same day boggles the mind.

"It’s not where you’re trying to be," Padres relief pitcher Tim Stauffer told Mark Bowman of mlb.com. "[Manager Bud] Black said, ‘Let’s go with the best pitch here and get a ground ball.’ So, that’s what we did. It was a curveball, down and away. Fortunately, he hit it and we got the ground ball."

The competing thought process belonged to Evan Gattis, who only needed to loft a fly ball to put the Braves ahead in the top of the 12th inning.

Swinging at a curveball, low and away, and trying to pull it, was deemed the best way to accomplish that task. It also proved the best way to ignite a 5-2-3 doubleplay.

Incredibly, Gattis also found himself at the center of the second epic failure to score. Enjoying the sights from second base, where he had just doubled in the tying run in the seventh inning, Gattis failed to score on Chris Johnson’s ensuing double.

Yes, read that back. He failed to score from second on a double.

"I just had too much on my mind," Gattis told Bowman.

Seriously? In that situation, when he sees a ball flying out to the warning track, what’s he got to think about? How about, "I should haul myself home here."

The other culprits included Emilio Bonifacio, the recent import from the Cubs, acquired to give the team a little spark. Sadly, his pilot light hasn’t been lit. He struck out looking, which actually wasn’t as bad a play as the next one.

Everyone’s favorite stick, BJ Upton, rising to the occasion, promptly hit into the now familiar 5-2-3 doubleplay, ending the inning.

"That’s the second day in a row," observed manager Fredi Gonzalez to Bowman. Nothing gets past the Braves brain trust. "All you’re looking for is a ball that gets out of the infield."

Exactly. It’s called situational hitting, and it’s a subject about which the Braves seemingly know nothing.

Before Friday’s game, Gonzalez spoke on the pre-game show about Bonifacio being a "supersub." He also said he would not replace BJ at the top of the lineup. "I want to keep my guy there," Gonzalez explained. "I think he’s had some success there in that spot."

Some success indeed. Upton entered Friday with a .250 average and .309 on-base percentage as the leadoff man. Bonifacio joined the club with a .279 average and .322 OBP. Not only that, Bonifacio was 10 for his last 21 before the trade.

So much for a spark. Stick with the guy vying for the league championship in strikeouts in the leadoff spot.

Might as well stick with Mike Minor as well. With another fine outing Friday (five runs in five innings), Minor raised his ERA over his past 10 starts to a staggering 7.33. For good measure, he’s also allowing a league worst 1.65 home runs every nine innings. Friday, he allowed two in his first three innings.

On the season, his ERA of 5.42 is topped in the National League only by Edwin Jackson’s 5.66. If you’re being compared to Edwin Jackson, you’ve reached the nadir.

No one seems immune. Remember last year’s final game, when some suggested that Craig Kimbrel should have been brought in to pitch the final two innings despite not going two innings all year?

Well, Gonzalez heard the naysayers. He decided to let Kimbrel go out for a second inning Saturday night. Kimbrel proceeded to walk the bases full and give up the winning hit. But he should be ready to go two in the playoffs if need be.

We saw Andrelton Simmons surprise everyone—including Gattis, the runner on third—by laying down a bunt with one out. We saw Aaron Harang surrender an RBI single to Aaron Ross, a .146 hitter. We saw David Hale chase trainer Jeff Porter away from the mound. We saw enough.

The Braves were also swept by the Dodgers. Gonzalez told Bowman, "It was one of the best series we have played. We lost three games, but it was not that bad. The intensity was there."

Actually, it is pretty bad when you get swept while playing one of your best series of the year.

This team is clearly missing some vital components. There is no sense of urgency, no attention to detail, no situational hitting.

And it’s excruciating to watch.

 

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