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Braves find trouble against righty Paddack

Bats struggle to match up with Donaldson out; Culberson picked off in ninth
@mlbbowman
May 1, 2019

ATLANTA -- Facing Chris Paddack hasn’t been an easy task for any team that has been introduced to him this year. Doing so without the presence of Josh Donaldson further enhanced the challenge the Braves faced as they were dealt a 4-3 loss to the Padres on Tuesday night at

ATLANTA -- Facing Chris Paddack hasn’t been an easy task for any team that has been introduced to him this year. Doing so without the presence of Josh Donaldson further enhanced the challenge the Braves faced as they were dealt a 4-3 loss to the Padres on Tuesday night at SunTrust Park.

“He’s got a good assortment,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He commands pitches. He’s a got a go-to pitch, too, that is tough. That changeup is something else. He’s got a little more velocity than I saw when I was watching video.”

Once the Braves were done dealing with Paddack’s changeup, which induced weak contact with regularity, they had to deal with the splitter possessed by Kirby Yates, the 32-year-old closer whose save total (14) matches Atlanta’s win total.

Brian McCann began the ninth with a single against Yates, his former Yankees battery mate, then was replaced by pinch-runner Charlie Culberson. With Tyler Flowers at the plate and one out, Culberson opted to steal. The aggressive attempt proved unsuccessful against Padres catcher Francisco Mejia.

“Whenever somebody runs, we're smiling from the dugout because we want to watch [Mejia] throw, even in the ninth inning,” Padres manager Andy Green said. “It just looks like the ball never stops and goes all the way through [second baseman Ian Kinsler's] glove.”

The Padres are blessed with a number of talented arms, including Paddack, who is armed with a fastball that sat around 94 mph and touched 97 mph. The 23-year-old right-hander confidently pounded the strike zone as he allowed a season-high four hits and two earned runs over six innings. The 23-year-old right-hander has posted a 1.91 ERA while limiting opponents to a .126 (14-for-111) batting average and a .197 on-base percentage.

Regardless of the opposition, the Braves possess a potent lineup. They have produced a strong .897 OPS against left-handed pitchers and an above average .786 OPS against right-handers. Attempting to move that latter mark closer to the former proved more challenging as they faced Paddack and Yates without Donaldson, who leads Atlanta with a .953 OPS against right-handed pitchers.

Donaldson was scratched from the lineup because of a sore right calf that should sideline him for just a day or two. His replacement, Johan Camargo, recorded the second of the three hits Paddack surrendered in the second inning, which was capped by Matt Joyce’s two-run single.

While there is certainly no cause for concern about the Braves’ splits, there are a few reasons they have thus far fared better against left-handed pitchers.

Switch-hitting leadoff hitter Ozzie Albies has extended last year’s second-half woes as he has hit just .206 with a .656 OPS from the left side over his past 19 games. But Albies has continued to be a terror on the right side, hitting .406 (13-for-32) against left-handed pitchers.

Freddie Freeman has produced a 1.118 OPS against left-handers, but has looked more mortal while constructing an .837 OPS against right-handers. There has been a much larger production gap for Dansby Swanson , who has a 1.172 OPS against lefties and a .762 OPS against righties.

Then there’s the always-important Ronald Acuña Jr. factor. The 21-year-old outfielder surged into the middle of April but he has hit just .220 with a .564 OPS over his past 13 games. These numbers improved when he produced an RBI single after Swanson doubled to begin Tuesday’s eighth inning against Trey Wingenter.

Like some of these trends might change, so too might the Braves' good fortune the next time they get to see Paddack.

“Any time you face somebody for the first time, the pitcher has the advantage,” McCann said. “He pounded the zone, changed speeds on all his pitches and he did a good job.”

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.