I knew it would happen the moment we lost two games in a row. I wanted to believe we wouldn't overreact as a city, but we always do. What's the first thing I hear on the radio when I wake up this morning? "Which of the Braves 4 hitters that are hitting less than .200 on the season is a sign of something more?" Ugh. RELAX. We lost 2 games because we struck out a bunch and hit balls right at guys. It's not a sign of something more. It's called baseball, and we lost 1-3 last night because we played poorly.
Last night is one of those games I'll point to where strikeouts hurt us. We had the bases loaded in the 2nd inning with nobody out. Then we struck out 3 times and walked once to score only one run. Nobody else could put a bat on the ball. Nobody could move the runners. Nobody could make a sacrifice. That's the danger of strikeouts in those scenarios. Plus, and this is a baseball superstition of mine and several others, leaving the bases loaded is extremely bad mojo. We didn't have another hit for 4 innings. Whether mental, or the fictional gods of momentum punishing you, it's a bad thing to not capitalize on your chances in baseball. Going 0-6 with RISP isn't capitalizing.
Maholm pitched really well, but I believe the lack of production caught up with him as well. A starter can only go so long while mentally dealing with a 1 run lead, because it forces you to think about not making mistakes. If you're Greg Maddux and a Hall of Famer? You can deal. If you're human? It's a concern. If you as a starter believe you can't give up a run, or you'll lose, then you try to get too fine and make perfect pitches. That leads to walks, and that leads to disaster. Case in point, Maholm walked the leadoff guy in both the 5th and 6th innings. In the 5th he wriggled off the hook. In the 6th, he ran out of wriggle room. All it took was that one inning to crush the Braves chances to win. It's not really Maholm's fault either. I think if you watched the game you felt the same thing he did on the mound, that he simply wasn't going to get any more support that day.
Francisco had a really bad day with a size 4 strikeout collar. Heyward struggled but he's making contact for the most part and taking walks when he gets them. Despite the start, his average has been rising over the last 7 days. People don't like the fact that .174 is a rising average, but it is over his sub .100 start. That's what I want to see out of our hitters. Keep making gradual progress week to week until you bust out. Despite Francisco's 4 Ks, he's still batting .333 on the week with two bombs. BJ Upton is batting .261 on the week and overcoming his poor start. Simmons has an OBP of .333, which is what you want on the week for a guy with his speed, even if it's not off hits. So are we panicky? Are we reactionary people who read this blog? I would hope not, but a win today will be the Valium that many others in this city need.
The one guy people ask the most questions about is Heyward. Here's my take: Heyward hit .232 for the first two months of last season. He then went on to hit .293 over June, July, and August, making people look pretty silly for questioning his start. Oh and he hit 18 homers in that stretch. He's starting slower at the beginning of this year than he did at last, but the difference is he's struck out less. He struck out 18 times by this point in 2012, and he's struck out only 12 times in 2013. More balls in play for Heyward, and I know he will break out of this. It's a matter of when.
The CPA is now in the same slump as the Braves offense. It's time to break out today. 10-7 on the season, so let's see where we stand in this afternoon tilt.
CPA Prediction Game 4: Braves 5 - Pirates 2
Sanchez is 0-2 for the Pirates with a 12+ ERA. Justin Upton has rocked him in the past, and he's the guy I'd look to for the damage in this game. Heyward, Francisco and Uggla are out of the lineup, meaning Russ Johnson and Pena are getting a shot, and Gattis goes to first. Let's hope the shakeup leads to a series split. No excuses in this one. Just win, baby!