The Braves went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position on Tuesday night, which should tell you a little about how they stranded 11 runners on base in a 6-3 loss to the Nationals.
Granted four of them could have easily scored on a pair of really nice plays by Nationals outfielders to rob Troy Glaus of a bases loaded double in the first and a run-scoring double in the third.
But last weekend’s sweep of the Astros aside, it’s been pretty futile in the “key hit” department for the Braves, especially on the road where the Braves are now 3-11 overall.
The 41-pitch first inning from Livan Hernandez in which the Braves scored only one run, painted a pretty clear picture of the Braves frustrations on Tuesday night. They drew two walks in the inning and an error by Bernadina in right field but managed only a run and left the bases loaded. Melky Cabrera grounded out to end the inning on his way to an 0-for-3 night with runners in scoring position.
He left seven runners himself as the third out of the first, fifth and seventh innings.
It was Martin Prado who drew the most attention from Bobby Cox in his postgame comments, after going 0-for-5 with what Bobby called “five bullets.” One was the error by Bernadina on a rope, one was a ball to the track in center in the third inning. You get the idea.
“We hit the ball tonight as hard as we’ve hit it all season,” Cox said. “Prado, you look back over five at-bats, hit the ball hard every single time and Troy did the same thing. Nothing fell.”
As a team the Braves are hitting .267 with runners in scoring position, which is middle of the pack in the National League. But in close-and-late situations, they are hitting only .223 which is 13th in the National League.
It’s something Chipper addressed tonight in the process of answering a question I had about Kenshin Kawakami and his five-game losing streak to start the season.
“With our offense struggling the way it is to produce, it gets magnified,” Jones said of KK’s issues. “But he’s battling. He’s pitching well enough to win most of the time. But until we start getting some balls to fall in offensively, with runners on base, runners in scoring position, the pitching staff is really going to have to bear down.”
Chipper on Livan
Jones had some great quotes about Livan Hernandez, the ol’ nemesis of the Braves. I’ll include here:
“He threw 150 pitches and he didn’t even break a sweat,” Jones said. “I’ll say this about Livan. The repertoire might not blow your mind but that guy knows how to pitch. He changes speeds on every single pitch that he has, whether it’s a fastball, changeup, curveball, slider, cutter, everything. And he throws nothing over the middle of the plate. Everything is two inches off either corner. And that’s what’s made him so successful. He’s got great mechanics out there on the mound (here he laughs), he uses a minimal amount of effort, and more times than not gets the job done.”
(Hernandez actually threw 123 pitches.)
I asked him about the called strike three from Hernandez in the first inning with runners first and third for the first out.
“That ball was in,” Jones said. “I hit that ball off my left ring finger if I swung at that. I’m hitting .200; I’m not exactly sure where the strike zone is (but) I didn’t think it was a strike. I came back up here and looked at it (on the video monitor), it’s not a strike. You get a call like that, that’s how you throw 41 pitches in the first and get out of it with one run.”
Cox said after the game that he took Kawakami out after five innings, trailing 3-2 because he had worked a blister on the bottom of his right foot.
“He’s got a big, big blister under his foot,” Cox said. “It started hurting in the fourth inning. They did everything to get him back out there, but it was really bothering him.”
Cox didn’t think it would be a factor for his next start. For his part, Kawakami wasn’t going to blame the blister for his outing (three earned runs in five innings, two homers allowed), nor a lack of run support.
“It wasn’t comfortable,” Kawakami said of the blister. “But I got hit because of the way I pitched.”
And of the lack-of-run support: “It’s not about the run support, it’s about the way I pitched. I’m not getting into a good rhythm and that’s pathetic.”