Even though the Braves got blown out by the Rockies last night, every other loss this season has come down to a matter on one measly run that the Braves either gave up in the field, or failed to bring across the plate in a critical offensive moment. Losses like that could be seen as simple bad luck, but I have a sneaking suspicion that there’s something else at play here, but I’m not sure if it’s a club house issue, or if it’s a weakness in the line-up.
On paper, the Braves look good, and the starting pitching has usually been very solid, but the team has put together only a couple of great offensive games, and the bullpen looks like it’s got a flat tire or two that need immediate patching. April is always a slow month for the Braves, as they often treat their first 30 or so games like extended Spring Training, ironing out wrinkles and dead spots in the rotation and batting order, but like I said before, I have a bad feeling about the losses we’ve seen so far.
Last night was perhaps the most aggravating game I have watched all season, as hitter after hitter came up empty against none other than Mark Redman, a guy who gets paid to throw batting practice during games. Last year Redman gave up what seemed like 1,000’s of runs during his time with the Braves, only to shut down almost every Braves hitter almost exactly a year later. His “curveball” came in around 64 or 65 mph last night, and literally had no curve to it, and he wasn’t exactly painting the corners with solid strike to ball ratios, but no one in the Braves dugout seemed inclined to get into a hitter’s count, and subsequently spent most of the night flailing at outside pitches, or coming around to early on Redman’s “fastball” (82 mph? Are you kidding me?), hitting choppers to the shortstop all night. Very disappointing.
One of the biggest highlights of the past week was the Braves performance against the Mangy Mets. Though one of the games got rained out, taking 2 wins from the Mets and putting Johan Santana in his place was very gratifying, and watching Smoltz mow down all those Mets players was a great sight to behold. I thought it was funny that the Braves were saying they pitched Smoltz over Glavine last Sunday so that Smoltz wouldn’t have to make his first start in Colorado, where the cold weather might have caused him to tighten up. In reality, the Braves, the Mets, and just about everyone else knew that Glavine has a snowballs chance in hell at getting through a Mets line-up that knows him better than almost every player in the Braves dugout (including pitching coach Roger McDowell). Jose Reyes and David Wright spent the last few years watching that Glavine circle change-up, and they know exactly when it’s coming and what it looks like. If Bobby Cox can avoid it, I think he’ll change up the rotation to keep Glavine off the mound anytime the Mets are in the opposing dugout.
The season is still young, and there is still a lot of baseball to be played, but I really hope we don’t spend the remainder of the year watching the Braves lose in close ball games. Kotsay looks pretty good in center, and Escobar looks fabulous at shortstop, so there are some things to be optimistic about. I’ll keep watching and waiting for the offense to hit it’s stride, and hopefully we’ll be able to plug in that pesky #5 spot in the rotation soon (I’m talkin’ to you Mike Hampton!).