Braves unfazed by 4-game skid: 'It just becomes motivation'

July 20th, 2023

ATLANTA -- Asked about the rash of injuries his team has had to deal with over the past couple of weeks, Braves manager Brian Snitker proved his sense of humor hasn’t been dulled by this sudden rough patch.

“We’re having a hard time finding parking spots for the guys we’re bringing in [to replace injured players],” Snitker said.

Yeah, the Braves’ injured list is littered with talented pitchers. But Snitker and his players are not blaming injuries on the out-of-nowhere losing streak that was extended to four games with a 5-3 loss to the D-backs on Wednesday night at Truist Park.

“It’s baseball, it happens,” Braves outfielder said. “We were going so well for so long. We’re a good team. We know we can come back and flip the switch in a second.”

The Braves looked like they might have been the greatest team ever assembled as they went 27-4 from June 3-July 8. They have proven mortal while losing five of the six games that followed. 

It’s not like this club hasn’t been here before. This is actually Atlanta's third four-game losing streak of the season. And just like the other two skids, this one hasn’t been destructive. 

The Braves still lead the National League East by 9 1/2 games and own a 6 1/2-game lead for the battle to claim the NL’s best record.

“I think with the right group, losing and getting pushed around a little bit can be beneficial,” Braves starting pitcher said. “You don’t want to have to experience that. You don’t want to lose games. But with the right group, and I think we have the right group, it just becomes motivation.”  

This has certainly been a humbling stretch for the Braves’ pitching staff, which has allowed 35 runs and 50 hits during this four-game skid. Yeah, 16 of those runs and 16 of those hits were tallied during Tuesday night’s 16-13 loss to the D-backs. But it’s not like any of the other three losses was a product of misfortune.

In fact, the most effective start during this stretch was provided by Morton, as he allowed four runs and six hits over 5 2/3 innings vs. the D-backs on Wednesday. The veteran hurler issued three two-out walks. But what upset him most were the misplaced breaking balls he threw to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Nick Ahmed.  

Gurriel tallied a two-run double against an 0-2 curveball that was nearly middle-middle in the third. Ahmed laced an RBI double in the sixth against a 1-2 pitch that was supposed to be a curveball but was more of just a spinner.

“With those two curveballs, basically all I’m doing is serving my best pitch on a platter and saying, ‘These are the worst locations that I can throw this pitch,’” Morton said.

Morton entered this outing having posted a 0.47 ERA in July through three starts. There’s not much reason to be concerned about him. Nor is there reason to worry about Spencer Strider, who allowed five runs in six innings Saturday -- but was damaged by Eddie Rosario’s two defensive miscues -- at the start of this four-game skid.

Bryce Elder has struggled in his past two starts, but he was leading the NL in ERA just a couple of weeks ago. There’s some uncertainty about Michael Soroka, who will make his next start on Friday. But the Braves’ rotation could get Max Fried back as early as next week.  There’s also still a chance Kyle Wright could return in September and provide some late-season value.  

The Braves’ bullpen is currently without A.J. Minter, Nick Anderson, Dylan Lee and Jesse Chavez, all of whom could be used with confidence in high-leverage situations. Minter could return soon. Chavez and Lee both seem to be at least a couple of weeks away. As for Anderson, he could rejoin the bullpen in September.

Nobody is going to feel sorry for the Braves. Injuries are just a part of it. So, too, are four-game losing streaks.  

“These guys are so consistent in everything they do with their approach to the game that they'll be fine,” Snitker said. “Then they'll reel off something on the back end of it.”