Offensive struggles on display in DH sweep
Braves set dubious mark with 1 combined hit vs. D-backs
ATLANTA -- When it felt like things couldn’t get worse, they seemingly did as the Braves were held hitless through a 7-0 loss to the D-backs in the second game of Sunday afternoon’s seven-inning doubleheader at Truist Park.
As Madison Bumgarner held Atlanta hitless over the entirety of the seven-inning nightcap, he added to the misery of a frustration-filled day within which the Braves’ offense set a dubious record by totaling just one hit over two games.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Braves’ one hit stands as the fewest any team has ever totaled during a doubleheader. Cleveland had previously set the record when it collected just two hits over two games against the Red Sox on April 12, 1992.
“We just didn’t have it today,” Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “It’s April. We’re OK. It’s just that April 25 wasn’t the Atlanta Braves’ day. We’ll come back tomorrow and go get them.”
Freeman’s one-out single off Zac Gallen in the sixth inning of the first game stood as the only hit that the Braves recorded over 42 at-bats. They sustained a 5-0 loss as Gallen went the distance in the opener and then watched Drew Smyly allow five runs to the D-backs in the first inning of the nightcap.
“It wasn’t our day for sure,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “You’ve got to put it behind you and hopefully start a winning streak tomorrow.”
Here were some of the primary takeaways from this unique day:
What’s wrong with Ozuna?
Marcell Ozuna has plenty of time to get on track and begin producing like he did last year when he hit a National League-best 18 homers and produced a 1.067 OPS.
Ozuna went 0-for-6 with three strikeouts during the doubleheader. Unfortunately, that’s in line with the early-season production for the veteran outfielder, who signed a four-year, $65 million deal in February. He is hitting .184 (14-for-76) with 26 strikeouts and one extra-base hit.
With Pavin Smith and David Peralta homering ahead of a Josh Rojas double, the D-backs tripled Ozuna’s extra-base total for the season in the first inning of Game 2 on Sunday.
“He’s hitting some balls good,” Snitker said. “He’s just not getting anything for it.”
Rest of the lineup
It might still be fine to playfully ask if they can just roll the innings after Ronald Acuña Jr. and Freeman bat. But with May quickly approaching, performances such as the one put forth vs. the D-backs create reason to be more concerned with a lineup that has been limited to one hit or less in three of its first 21 games.
The Braves are the only team to be held to one hit or less multiple times this year.
Freeman’s expected batting average (xBA) is more than 100 points higher (.310) than his actual batting average (.205); his expected slugging percentage (xSLG) is more than 200 points higher (.683) than his actual slugging percentage (.438).
Acuña still leads the NL with a 1.237 OPS. But no other Braves regular has an OPS above .800. In fact, Travis d’Arnaud (.557), Dansby Swanson (.546) and Ozuna (.527) own three of the game’s weakest marks.
“I'm not concerned. We still have 141 games to go,” Freeman said. “We do need to start hitting. We haven’t been consistent at all.”
While Mike Soroka might not join the rotation before June, Max Fried could come off the injured list to make his next start as soon as Friday. Pairing a healthy Fried with Charlie Morton and Ian Anderson will give the Braves a solid rotation base that would obviously become stronger once Soroka returns.
The question is what kind of return will the Braves get on the $11 million they invested in Smyly, who totaled 26 1/3 innings as a starter last year and pitched into the sixth inning in just two starts. He has posted a 7.20 ERA through his first three starts this year.
Smyly returned from the injured list Sunday to make his first start since his left forearm began bothering him after his April 11 outing against the Phillies. Smith hit the game’s first pitch over the right-field wall and Peralta cleared the right-center-field wall with a two-run blast a few minutes later. Eduardo Escobar got into the long-ball act with a third-inning solo shot.
“There's a lot of baseball left to play,” Smyly said. “We didn't do anything good today, really, with pitching or hitting or defense.”
It was a bad day all around for the Braves, who can count themselves fortunate to be three games under .500 (9-12) and just two games out of first place in the NL East.
“We’re going to hit a stride here at some point in time,” Snitker said. “We’re staying right there. We’ve got five more months to go. It’s a long time to do some really good things.”