'Humbled' Braves not hanging their heads

April 14th, 2016

ATLANTA -- Those who have watched the Braves on a daily basis understand that their record doesn't tell the whole story. But those who have attempted to analyze how many games they could have won during this 0-8 start can't help but realize that they have been every bit as maddening as their record indicates.

"Everyone is frustrated obviously," Braves veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "When you're 0-and whatever we are, that's frustrating. But I don't see guys hanging their heads and I don't see guys not playing hard and not doing things the right way. We're still running balls out and still going about it the right way. That's all you can really control."

During Wednesday night's 3-0 loss to the Nationals, the Braves notched just five hits and were unable to overcome the two fourth-inning home runs Matt Wisler surrendered during an otherwise strong start. There was no reason to question some of manager Fredi Gonzalez's decisions for a second straight night. Nor was there reason to be critical of a defense that has played its part in the early struggles.

Yeah, Freddie Freeman extended his slump as the offense struggled against Tanner Roark and two Nationals relievers. But, really this was just one of those frustrating games that most teams are bound to experience a few times per month.

Usually, it's easy to just walk away from these kind of contests with little concern. But it's obviously much easier to do so when not in the midst of an eight-game losing streak, during which opportunities to succeed were squandered.

"The game of baseball is a great game and it's a humbling game," Gonzalez said. "Right now, we're being humbled in a lot of areas. But the great thing about the game is you go back out there the next day and hopefully we can get a streak going."

The Braves held a lead in the seventh inning or later during four of their first five games, and they wasted the four runs they tallied against Max Scherzer during the first inning of Monday night's loss to the Nationals. They have tallied just one run over their past 25 innings, and in the process, squandered the effective starts Jhoulys Chacin and Wisler have provided the past two nights.

One could easily argue that the Braves could have won at least five games this season. But in the process of doing so, it is easy to see why this eight-start stretch has been so maddening. The bullpen has surrendered 20 earned runs over 24 2/3 innings, and the offense has tallied 17 of its 22 runs through the first four innings.

Freeman has batted .080 and struck out in nine of his first 32 plate appearances. There's certainly reason to believe he will soon get on track and team with the recently hot Nick Markakis to aid the early offensive woes.

The Braves will continue to tinker with the bullpen, which suffered a big loss when Daniel Winkler fractured his right elbow on Sunday. At the same time, they will hope that the encouraging outings Wisler and Chacin produced the past two nights were a sign of things to come.

"It's just at the beginning of the year and everything is magnified," Pierzynski said. "As a player, you want to get off to a good start, and as a team, you want to get off to a good start. When you don't do that, you try to win four games in one and then you try to get four hits in one at-bat, instead of just taking the game or the at-bat for what it is. But it will turn around. This team has a lot of talent."