NEW YORK -- At some point, the Braves will once again win or lose games in consecutive fashion. But until they do, there will continue to be skepticism about their bid to win a fourth straight division title.
Max Fried surrendered a decisive seventh-inning homer and received little support from a maddening offense as the Braves suffered a 2-1 loss to the Mets on Wednesday night at Citi Field.
“That was like a playoff game,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “Max threw great. God, he threw the ball well.”
Yeah, Fried was impressive and a bang-bang play at the plate allowed the Mets to keep a lead in the ninth. But the Braves’ current trend certainly isn’t carrying them toward the postseason excitement they’ve enjoyed each of the past three years.
The Braves have alternated a win and a loss over each of the first 13 games they have played since the All-Star break. By splitting the first four games of this five-game series, they remain five games behind the first-place Mets in the National League East.
At the same time, this latest loss prevented the Braves from evening their record (50-52) for the first time since July 10. They haven’t had a winning record at any point this season and they have had a .500 record after just six games. A losing streak of at least two games has been experienced each of the previous times they have had a .500 record.
The Braves have been burdened by a leaky bullpen and an offense that has scored two runs or fewer in 16 of its past 35 games, including seven of its past nine. This club hasn’t won the close contests like it did the past few years.
Including a pair of losses in this key division series, the Braves are now 16-19 in one-run games this year. They went an MLB-best 62-34 in these games from 2018-2020.
“We just need some stuff to fall our way,” said Fried, who had surrendered just one run before allowing Brandon Drury’s decisive, pinch-hit, solo home run in the seventh.
It looked like the Braves might have finally found some late-inning magic when Abraham Almonte doubled to begin the ninth and then sprinted toward the plate on Ehire Adrianza’s one-out single to right. But Michael Conforto’s strong, pinpoint throw denied Almonte’s bid to slide across the plate with the tying run.
"Conforto made a great play," Snitker said. "He couldn't have thrown that ball any better. It's just one of those things."
Fried’s only offensive support came courtesy of Austin Riley’s sixth-inning solo homer off Mets starter Tylor Megill. But after tallying his 20th dinger of the season and fifth within the past six days, Riley was unable to take advantage of a prime scoring opportunity a couple innings later.
Joc Pederson and Ozzie Albies began the eighth with consecutive singles. But after a Freddie Freeman groundout put runners at second and third, Riley struck out against Jeurys Familia. Dansby Swanson then grounded out to end the Braves’ threat.
“Those guys live to drive runs in,” Snitker said. “That’s what they do. They want to knock runs in and they get pissed when they don’t. So, I’m sure he’s focusing on that more than the homer.”
If the Braves are fortunate enough to win Thursday afternoon’s series finale, they will have at least gained a game during this five-game series. But as the offense continues to provide little support on a regular basis, there’s reason to wonder if this team will ever get on that roll that has eluded it all year.
“Regardless of how this series ends, there's still a lot of baseball to play,” Snitker said. “We're going to get a guy or two back [from the injured list] and this [series] isn’t going to define our season.”