Local, Sports

What’s Up With The Braves So Far This Season?

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Max Fried works against the San Diego Padres in the first inning Wednesday in Atlanta. Fans shouldn’t panic yet over the team’s start this season. But after winning the National League East title last year, some lofty expectations were set for the team.
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Max Fried works against the San Diego Padres in the first inning Wednesday in Atlanta. Fans shouldn’t panic yet over the team’s start this season. But after winning the National League East title last year, some lofty expectations were set for the team.
Credit John Bazemore / Associated Press
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The Major League Baseball season is just a month old, so there’s no reason for fans to panic. But after 30 games, the Atlanta Braves, winners of the 2018 National League East title, were 15-15 overall, as of Wednesday.

It might not be time to do anything drastic [See: signing free agent reliever Craig Kimbrel], but there have been a few issues brought to light to go along with some lofty preseason expectations after the team’s first pennant since 2013.

Some of those expectations have been met. Others? A work in progress.

The Good

Atlanta was 15-15 after defeating the Padres 5-1 Wednesday night (they’re now 15-16) and remained within striking distance of the first-place Philadelphia Phillies (17-13) and New York Mets (15-15) in the NL East. Having split a four-game series with the Mets at home already this season, the two teams are not scheduled to play again until next month.

Max Fried is now 4-1 with a 2.11 ERA in six starts this season, including a masterful seven-inning, seven-strikeout, 0-walk, one-run performance Wednesday. For the moment, the Santa Monica, California, native and former Padres 2012 first-round draft pick and 21-year-old Canadian Mike Soroka look to be the Braves’ top starters. Having three starters age 25 and under (including 22-year-old Touki Toussaint, 1-0 in two games this season) is most certainly a good thing.

Ender Inciarte is not hurt. Inciarte isn’t playing his best baseball at the moment (more on that later), but what looked like a right hamstring injury Monday night that kept him out of the starting lineup Tuesday didn’t stop him from playing and starting at center field on Wednesday. Josh Donaldson, who missed Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s games, is expected back in the lineup for the road trip.

Nick Markakis, who is batting .330 with 18 RBI, 10 doubles and a .881 OPS, has hit safely in eight consecutive games. He was 1-3 with a double and a walk Wednesday night.

Dansby Swanson was 1-3 with 3 RBI Wednesday night and during his last seven games is batting over .300 with a .565 slugging percentage.

The Bad

Inciarte, a very important part of the Braves offense, is hitting .237 with just 6 RBI in 93 at-bats this season. Again, it’s early, and Inciarte, a career .287 hitter, can easily get his numbers back up. On Tuesday with runners on first and second with one out and the Braves down 4-2, he struck out.

Inciarte is not the only one struggling with runners on. Atlanta was 10-74 with runners in scoring position heading into Wednesday’s game. The Braves were 2-11 with runners in scoring position Wednesday night.

Atlanta has lost two series to teams under .500 this season. They lost two of three to Cincinnati (12-17) and two of three to Colorado (13-17) last month.

The Ugly

The bullpen, the topic of discussion of every local sports radio show and newspaper column, has registered just six saves thus far.

A.J. Minter, in 12 games, is 0-3 with a 8.38 ERA despite having converted three of his four save opportunities this season. He came on to pitch in the ninth inning Wednesday, striking out two Padres to end the game.

Chad Sobotka, in 13 games, has an ERA of 8.25 in 12 innings of work this season. Thus far, he’s given up 13 hits and 13 runs, 11 of which have been earned.

What’s Next?

The Braves hosted the San Diego Padres on Thursday afternoon (they lost 11-2) for the fourth game of their series and the seventh and final game of this home stand before going out on the road for a 10-game swing. Atlanta will begin the trip in Miami for three games against the Marlins then move on to Los Angeles for a three-games series against the Dodgers before heading southwest to see the Arizona Diamondbacks for a four-game series. The Diamondbacks swept all three of their games in Atlanta last month.