The Braves are not completely devoid of positive signs these days. It’s just that after starting the season 22-13 and beginning to take the form of a wrecking ball, there has been a market correction.
And the question is: How ugly will this get?
Losers of five straight games and faced with the prospects of missing Chipper Jones for another several games, the Braves face the Washington Nationals today (4 p.m.).
Mike Minor (2-4, 6.96) — who allowed four home runs in his last start and generally has been a mess for the past month — will be opposed by Stephen Strasburg (4-1, 2.21). So much for positive foreshadowing.
It’s only late May. The Braves are two games out of first place, and trail
a team (Nationals) who don’t exactly have a resume of Octobers behind them. So it’s hardly panic time. But yes, there is concern.
The positives: Martin Prado (.333) is on a tear. Michael Bourn (.307 with 13 stolen bases) is still doing his part. Dan Uggla (.256, 6 homers, 25 RBI) is fine.
But overall, the team is struggling to come up with key base hits — they stranded eight base runners in Friday’s 7-4 loss, including six in the first three innings — and the starting pitching has fallen off. Then there are the individuals:
• Jones was put on the 15-day disabled list after Friday’s game, retroactive to his pinch-hitting appearance Wednesday. His contused left calf is still to painful to play on and the Braves needed his roster spot because . . .
• No. 2 catcher David Ross suffered a minor groin strain Friday and will miss at least a few games. The Braves recalled J.C. Boscan, who will start today. Ross was playing because . . .
• Starting catcher Brian McCann is still weak from the flu. He replaced Ross in the game but by late in the evening felt sapped of energy. There’s a chance he could start Sunday night.
• First baseman Freddie Freeman is struggling with blurred vision and is adjusting to new contact lenses. Freeman’s batting average is down to .247, which isn’t much higher than Jason Heyward’s .239. Stating the obvious: The Braves can’t succeed with those two hitting at that level.
The Braves, only 4-8 since that 22-13 start, need a strong effort from Minor, who hasn’t had a quality start since winning at Los Angeles 4-3 April 24 (six innings, three runs, eight hits). In five starts since, he has allowed 31 earned runs, 37 hits and 11 home runs in 26 2/3 innings (10.46 ERA).
Sometimes in sports, teams win games they’re not necessarily expected to win. The Braves better hope that’s the case today.
And now, the cyber floor is yours. We’ll be live blogging from the first pitch.
By Jeff Schultz