A strange homestand yields a cold truth: More hitting needed

Roy Halladay at work Wednesday. Note goose eggs. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Roy Halladay at work Wednesday. Note goose eggs. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Strange homestand. The Braves were shut out twice and no-hit once and beaten by a guy who has never won the Cy Young Award but who roomed with Cy Young. And yet they won three of six against two playoff-caliber opponents.

At the same time, the Braves conjured up two walk-off wins, one among the more improbable in team annals — Troy Glaus? Nate McLouth? Seriously? — and still managed to look feeble for long stretches. Strange, strange homestand.

But it’s the kind we’re apt to see often, at least until Glaus and McLouth and Melky Cabrera start to hit. (Or, more probably, until Frank Wren gets around to making another round of deals.) The Braves are good at pitching but not very good at hitting. They can keep most games close enough to have a chance at the end. But Jason Heyward can’t work a wonder every night.

Stat of the series just completed: The Braves didn’t score an earned run against a Philadelphia starting pitcher. Not against Kyle Kendrick, who entered Tuesday’s game with an ERA of 17.47 but who worked eight scorless innings; not against Roy Halladay, who’s great, and not against Jamie Moyer, who took his first big-league bow three years before the aforementioned Heyward made his debut on Earth.

The only runs the Braves mustered in six innings against Moyer on Thursday came courtesy of double plays flubbed by Chase Utley. They’re not the first team to lose to a guy who’d lose playing burnout with your Aunt Minnie, but it’s never an endorsement of a team’s offense when it gets hog-tied by a 47-year-old and his 82-mph fastball.

And that, sad to say, is the lesson of this homestand: There’s no endorsing this offense. The Braves scored 20 runs in six games, but nine of those came against Colorado last Friday, and seven of the nine were in one inning. They were shut out twice and nearly a third time, which takes us back to Tuesday’s epic rally.

At that moment McLouth’s home run landed in the right-field seats, you’d have figured the winning team would have been so emboldened it wouldn’t have lost for the next week if not the next calendar year. Instead the Braves mustered three runs (one earned) over the next 18 innings. This, see, is baseball, the sport in which momentum is tomorrow’s starting pitcher.

You can’t hit if the other pitcher won’t allow it. This concept worked against the Braves the past two nights, but there’s a bright side here. They can pitch, too. They’ll hold up their end more often than not. Tim Hudson threw a nice game Wednesday but lost to the best in the business. Derek Lowe wasn’t effective Thursday, but he’s an adequate No. 4 starter.

Pitching will keep the Braves afloat, but the holes in this batting order could sink the vessel. Counting Lowe, the Braves started five men Thursday hitting .200 or less. They entered the game batting .227 as a team, second-worst in the National League.

The patches affixed by Wren over the winter haven’t held. Except for one big swing with two out in the ninth Tuesday, the Glaus Experiment has been a fizzle. (He struck out three times Thursday.) Cabrera has been worse. (Francisco Cabrera had as many RBIs in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS as Melky Cabrera in his first 2 1/2 weeks as a Brave.) Indeed, the Braves’ back line of defense appears to consist of Heyward and three fourth outfielders.

Yes, it has been only 2 1/2 weeks, but you wonder how much longer this can go. We were here a year ago, and Wren did quick work — importing McLouth and Adam LaRoche, exporting Jordan Schafer, Jeff Francoeur and Casey Kotchman — to make the Braves competitive over the second half. The bad news: Such a flurry of dealing might again be required.

The good news: It’s easier to find hitting than pitching. The cold truth: More hitting is needed, and soon. The team the Braves just saw, the team the Braves hope to overhaul, is good at both.

220 comments Add your comment

rob graner

April 22nd, 2010
10:11 pm

E.Lo

April 22nd, 2010
10:11 pm

First!!!!! Do need hitting.

E.Lo

April 22nd, 2010
10:11 pm

Rob Graner you suck. LOL!!!!

todd grantham

April 22nd, 2010
10:12 pm

you lobbed me a first Mark. thanks

Mark Bradley

April 22nd, 2010
10:12 pm

O'Brien

April 22nd, 2010
10:12 pm

Mark,

The question is how long does Frank Wren wait before making a move?

Right now, Nate, Glaus, Melky, and Escobar are horrible.

todd grantham

April 22nd, 2010
10:13 pm

not quite a first. call me jamie moyer

LC

April 22nd, 2010
10:13 pm

Sign Jermaine Dye and put him in left immediately. Release Glaus and let Hinske start at first until finding a more permanent replacement.

Babe Ruth

April 22nd, 2010
10:16 pm

I have no confidence in Frank Wren fixing the offense on this team. He has proven he cannot produce an offensive lineup. He goes for the cheap. Ditch Troy, Melky, Nate for gosh sake!

PMC

April 22nd, 2010
10:20 pm

Well and the obvious…. Derrick Lowe…. not too good. Would have been nice to have shipped him out.

Still. Fuggedaboutit. They play 18 games. One series loss doesn’t kill the season. They hit the ball hard the last two days right at people. There is more reason to be positive than negative.

beauvighn

April 22nd, 2010
10:23 pm

For God’s sakes can we not get Eric Hinske in the lineup …another piss rocket to right and then Diaz hits into a DP….

ATL Dawg

April 22nd, 2010
10:26 pm

3 glaring holes in the Braves lineup…..Glaus, Cabrerra, and McClouth!!

SC Ace

April 22nd, 2010
10:29 pm

When will Glaus and Hinske trade places?

Bryan G.

April 22nd, 2010
10:32 pm

Eric C.

April 22nd, 2010
10:37 pm

The Braves team batting average is just about at the bottom, yet they are still 8-7…just wait till they get some hitting, huh?

Jamaaliver

April 22nd, 2010
10:39 pm

Mark, what kind of ammo do we have (on either the major OR minor league level) to acquire another bat or two in the lineup?

And is that Javier Vazquez trade looking worse by the day or what?

Eric C.

April 22nd, 2010
10:39 pm

How Lowe can you go? Ha…weird.

PH.D

April 22nd, 2010
10:40 pm

I enjoyed what Kawakami said regarding his relatively poor performance and how it affected the braves hitters. While our pitching is, for the most part, solid, our lineup is porous. Following Kawakami’s idea, the other hitters affect one another. Any one who has played and observed the game knows that if the leadoff hitter hits, there is extra enthusiasm, confidence, competition, and incentive for the other hitters to hit. A total reshuffling of the lineup card is therefore in order: 1) Escobar (proven; will hit eventually); 2) Prado (could bat leadoff); 3) Heyward (Chipper will complain but understand); 4) Mcann; 5) Chipper; 6) Hinske (Could bat 4, 5, or 6th); 7) Diaz (until someone better shows up); 8) Mclouth (Until his average goes under .100 and then it is time to ship him indefintely to the minors to get his mojo back, because it is obviously mental).

Fans: the only way this will happen is if you keep calling for change in the order; Wren will see it. Cox will follow orders.

Mark and Jeff: please do some digging with respect to the hitting coach, his philosophy, what the hitters think, and more comparative statistics concerning the hitting teams, runs scored because of him, the role of the leadoff and front end of the order. We seriously lack any investigative reporting for the Braves.

Thank you.

Eric C.

April 22nd, 2010
10:46 pm

PH.D…the line-up looks great! I’d switch Escobar and Prado.

VinceVanGo

April 22nd, 2010
10:47 pm

Trade McClouth or M. Cabrera and whatever else it takes for a true lead off hitter, hopefully an outfielder. Platoon Hinske/Glaus at first until one of them claims the position. Drop Glaus in the order. Move Escobar to the five spot with Heyward sixth. If no trade is made for a lead off hitter put Infante as lead off and into the outfield everyday. The pieces are on the roster if Bobby Cox can figure out the right mix.

todd grantham

April 22nd, 2010
10:49 pm

Mark, about the book. it will have to be a coffee table edition to get a representative group of blurbers you’ve clashed with.

todd grantham

April 22nd, 2010
10:50 pm

on a roll here :)

rob graner

April 22nd, 2010
10:54 pm

LC I said that same thing 2 nights ago about Dye….we need something while keeping some younger guys around….or send out a trade to San Diego

Dawg Fan in Grayson

April 22nd, 2010
10:54 pm

Not to sound like a smart A, but DUH!!!!! TP needs to go because we have watched the same crap last 5 years

Quitman, GA

April 22nd, 2010
10:55 pm

Diaz will start hitting soon. Escobar is not hitting now but will. As far as Nate it’s a puzzle why he can’t right the ship. How in the world did Melky get playing time with the Yanks i’d take Willie Harris or R. Church over Melky any day. I don’t see Glaus, Melky or Nate turning it around. So that puts the Braves right back to last yaer with three automatic outs just like Frenchy. Kelly and Shafer.

Mark Bradley

April 22nd, 2010
10:58 pm

Good line about the coffee table, Coach.

todd grantham

April 22nd, 2010
11:02 pm

Only a minor bit of humor…

matt r

April 22nd, 2010
11:02 pm

8-7… runs scored 67, runs allowed 67… this is still a .500 team. BTW, Phillies are 91-56 in runs scored/against

Mark Bradley

April 22nd, 2010
11:03 pm

Fitting on a minor-key night.

Headed home now. Thanks for hanging with me the past five hours. Join me tomorrow for some live-chat action from Day 2 of the draft. We’ll get underway around 5:30 p.m., and we’ll keep going until … whenever.

J-Smoove

April 22nd, 2010
11:07 pm

At least the Bravos are heading to NY to play the Mets and Frenchy… Should be at least 2 of 3 this weekend. The J-Hey Kid is going to show out in the “Big Apple”.

todd

April 22nd, 2010
11:13 pm

I made the case for how bad the Braves witting was after the no hitter and got jumped on by some non baseball people on this blog. I wonder where they are at tonight? Glaus and Cabrerra have to go – they are terrible. At least McClouth can play D and I still think he can turn it around.

Dave

April 22nd, 2010
11:23 pm

Hopefully, new next manager, whoever he is, will transform the Braves into a “station-to-station” hitting ball club, and not rely so much on the long ball. The Braves get base-hit to death on many occasions, and it’s time they return the favor. I’d rather have a bunch of players who hit around .270-.300, and have a ton of hits and RBIs, but 10-15 HRs, than guys who hit 30-40 home runs, but that’s all they do, except strike out a lot (and their batting average shows it). Great pitchers still look like they suck if they can’t get run support. The Braves need consistent singles and doubles hitters, as well as sluggers, even moreso.

thismightbeouryear

April 22nd, 2010
11:23 pm

MB – this series also reveals something else: Thr Phillies are DAMN good. Great pitching, solid hitting thru the lineup and an intense manager who obviously inspires a winning attitude. Bravos played pretty well this series. Good enough to beat most teams 2-1, some 3-0. We might just have the misfortune of having this promising lineup and the excitement of j-hey in the era of maybe the team of the decade. Bad timing. Or…maybe it raises our level of play and we alternate World series appearances for awhile. I would take that. Go Bravos!!

Herschel Talker

April 22nd, 2010
11:24 pm

MB:

Good writeup. Indeed you are correct. Anyone with any brains knew that Glaus was going to be a disaster, and same with Melky. Wren tried to spin nonsense about the “quality” outfielder we got from the Yankees for Vazquez, and we all knew he was full of crap. So where exactly did the $11MM go that was shipped out with Vazquez? Glaus and Melky aren’t close to $11MM. Wren couldn’t even use that salary wisely. Now he’ll wait until June to do anything and Cox the imbecile will continue sending “Glausy” out there every day. This really sucks.

Braves Fan

April 22nd, 2010
11:24 pm

Well again the mighty triumverite has screwed up Milky, Glass and McLout couldn’t hit if thye were playing T-Ball. Why doesn’t Bobby Cox retire now gracifully and take wren, Pendelton, Mcdowell with him as well. This team has really sucked the past few years. I know there are the optomists out there still, but they’re just wasting their time. The braves are a .500 team at best. Until new local ownership is found who care and develop the team we should BOYCOTT THE BRAVES !!!!!!!!!!!!

Greg Norton

April 22nd, 2010
11:28 pm

I’m waiting for your call Mr. Wren…been poppin a few at the local batting cages so I am READY!!!!!

count_schemula

April 22nd, 2010
11:31 pm

Melky is just not hitting. He’s not even close, it’s not like he’s hitting the ball hard and just getting unlucky. Veteran respect aside, it’s time for a Hinske/Glaus platoon, with an eventual Freeman call-up. I went to the lats two games. Halladay, what are you gonna do, he’s a machine. To let Moyer go into deep inning against a team with a weak bullpen? The real problem is Diaz/Melky/McLouth are all cold at the same time. McLouth should be the center fielder at this point. I just have not seen anything out of Melky and he’s pretty weak center fielder to boot.

Reid Adair

April 22nd, 2010
11:32 pm

Oh, no! More hitting? So Troy Glaus and Eric Hinske weren’t the solve-all answer that Frank Wren wanted us to believe?

Wow. If I hadn’t already believed that from the time those deals were made.

Once again, it’s not going to matter how good the pitching is if they can’t score runs, and Jason Heyward can’t do it alone.

supa

April 22nd, 2010
11:34 pm

The Freddie Freeman era should start now.

I think McLouth will be fine, but not sure about Melky and Glaus. Both are easy outs right now. This line-up is pathetic. Prado, McCann, and Heyward are the only hitters I look forward to watching. The others are a yawn.

Greg Norton

April 22nd, 2010
11:41 pm

People…I am here! Problem solved…I guess you could call Jermaine Dye, he’s pretty good and un-signed

Mafia

April 22nd, 2010
11:48 pm

Braves Fan, nah keep McDowell. He knows what’s going on.

Jimmy O

April 22nd, 2010
11:50 pm

Hey, just wodering where the POS’s like Buckhead Brave are? It seems like you had the Phils all figured out ! These Phils are the bar which all N.L.teams will be mesured against. The Braves have a long way to go to even be in the discussion.
people like Butthead Brave have no CLUE !!!!!

BATMAN

April 22nd, 2010
11:55 pm

FIRST BASE,FIRST BASE,FIRST BASE!!!

Greg Norton

April 22nd, 2010
11:56 pm

Jimmy O…have another cheesteak and tastykake fat boy

Whopper Dawg

April 22nd, 2010
11:58 pm

No kidding. Did you actually think the moves made by Wren would shore up the O???
Chipper will play about 60% to 80% of the time. Traded a Cy Young contender in 2009 for squat. Come on, man, this is not a surprise.

Scott

April 22nd, 2010
11:59 pm

Sign Dye for LF, put him 6th in the order behind Heyward and in front of Hinske/Glaus. Let Infante get about 3-5 games in CF to see what he can do and lead him off. If nothing else maybe that will push Nate a little until Schafer is ready. Start platooning Hinske and Glaus and see who wants the job. Trade Melky for whatever he will bring.

Infante CF
Prado 2
Chipper 3
McCann C
Heyward RF
Dye LF
Hinske/Glaus 1
Escobar SS

Jimmy O

April 23rd, 2010
12:03 am

How pathetic, only a little,time has gone by after the game. And yet none of the Braves faithful or fans(HA-HA what a joke=
braves fans HA HA HA

Don

April 23rd, 2010
12:04 am

Braves are still painful to watch. This Braves fan is sick and tired of this patchwork rostering. Stop hiring over the hill ball players!

Jimmy O

April 23rd, 2010
12:08 am

Hey Greg Norton, Did I ever say I was from Phila.? No actually I just amuse myself with people like yourself. If I wanted to play the sterotype game PLEASE stop with your sister, your dad has been waiting patiently !

Greg Norton

April 23rd, 2010
12:13 am

I’m amused that you spend your life on the blogs for teams you don’t like Jimmy O…’the world needs ditch-diggers too Danny’…