Braves' rotation a strength despite missing two key pitchers

Faltering offense can't muster support for Morton in opener vs. D-backs

June 3rd, 2023

PHOENIX -- Yeah, this road trip has thus far been ugly. But it’s not like the past three weeks have been pretty for the Braves, who have tallied the second-fewest wins among National League teams going back to May 10.

This makes sense, given that and have both been on the injured list throughout this span. But the injury-depleted rotation has actually been one of the team’s strengths.

Such was the case again on Friday night, when a slumbering offense didn’t back an impressive in a 3-2 loss to the D-backs. Both runs were scored courtesy of Eddie Rosario’s first multi-homer game since Game 4 of the 2021 National League Championship Series.

“We're just having a hard time keeping the line moving and getting the big hit,” manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s been like that pretty much the whole road trip.”

The Braves have lost three of the first four games of this road trip and are 8-13 going back to May 10. The Padres are the only NL team with fewer wins (seven) during this stretch.

A leaky bullpen hurt the Braves throughout much of May, and the offense has been pretty quiet this week. But after Morton limited the D-backs to three runs over seven innings in this latest loss, Atlanta’s starters had posted a 3.47 ERA during this 21-game span. That mark would have ranked third among all MLB teams entering Friday.

So, it’s safe to say the fact that neither Fried or Wright has thrown a pitch since May 6 hasn’t been the problem. In fact, the rotation’s continued success should give the Braves hope regarding what the following weeks and months might bring.

“The one thing we can control is the starting pitching, and the guys have been doing a great job,” Snitker said. “We’ve been staying in games. When that offense gets clicking like they’re capable of, then we’ll take advantage of all that starting pitching.”

This trip began with consecutive losses to an A’s team that is on pace to tally one of the lowest win totals in MLB history. The Braves scored three runs in those two games and erupted for four runs while avoiding a three-game sweep on Wednesday.

So, maybe it shouldn’t have been surprising to see most of Atlanta’s lineup silenced again on Friday by D-backs starter Merrill Kelly, who entered the game having surrendered the National League’s fourth-lowest opponent’s batting average (.192).

Rosario's pair of solo shots against Kelly weren’t enough to support Morton, who constructed one of his best starts of the season against a D-backs club that has used a six-game winning streak to gain a tie with the Dodgers for the NL’s best record.

Morton surrendered two soft infield singles, including one that eluded first baseman , during a two-run first inning. Olson was also involved in a significant play during the third inning. He was on first base when Austin Riley laced a double that kicked off the left-field wall, forcing left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to redirect himself.

“As I was going from second to third there, I had it out in front of me,” Olson said. “I saw the kind of weird bounce. Once I saw the bounce and saw Gurriel turn around is when I turned and looked at [third-base coach Ron Washington] and he was waving me. So, I put my head down to make the turn and find the bag. That’s when I looked up he was trying to stop me.”

Washington’s late stop sign left Morton in no-man’s land. His momentum carried him past the bag and allowed for him to be tagged out when Gurriel made a no-look throw that shortstop Nick Ahmed grabbed on a hop before firing a throw that was headed to the plate before being cut by third baseman Emmanuel Rivera, who quickly applied the tag.

“It’s just one of those things,” Snitker said. “When things aren’t going right and you’re having trouble scoring runs, those things happen.”