Shoddy defense seals Braves' fate in NLDS defeats
Catcher-turned-outfielder Gattis hitting, but struggling in left
LOS ANGELES -- Following National League Division Series Game 1 in Atlanta, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez insisted that he was not worried about his defense. Despite a pair of misplays that cost the Braves runs, Gonzalez said nothing had changed for one of the game's better defensive teams.
What he could not have anticipated was what happened in Game 3 on Sunday, when the Braves repeatedly hurt themselves defensively in a 13-6 loss to the Dodgers. Two errors, as well as another misplay from left fielder Evan Gattis, thrust the Braves into a hole from which they could not recover.
"It's pretty surprising," third baseman Chris Johnson said. "Generally, we're a pretty good defensive team, so we've got to tighten that up. We've got to play good defense [in Game 4 on Monday at 9:30 p.m. ET on TBS]. That's the thing in the playoffs is you've got to do all those little things. You can't give teams extra outs. Teams like that take advantage of that stuff."
As in Game 1, it was perhaps Gattis' misplay that hurt the Braves the most. With a man on first base and no outs in the second inning, Juan Uribe lifted a shallow pop to left field that the catcher-turned-outfielder misjudged, sprinting in far too late to make a play. A seemingly routine out off the bat, the ball dropped in for a single, igniting a four-run Dodgers rally.
"I took a drop step, stopped and came in," Gattis said. "I misread it."
An inning later, second baseman Elliot Johnson committed a throwing error that allowed Yasiel Puig to reach scoring position. And score Puig did, on Skip Schumaker's ensuing single.
Then, in the fourth, Alex Wood was unable to field Carl Crawford's bunt back to the mound. That led to a another four-run Dodgers rally, with all four unearned.
It has been that sort of series for the Braves, who -- if advanced metrics such as Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved tell an accurate story -- were at least above average defensively during the regular season. Mental mistakes, such as Jason Heyward's throw home or Gattis' unsuccessful dive in Game 1, simply did not happen this often.
Understanding that Gattis did not regularly play the outfield until last season, Gonzalez freely admits the former catcher's shortcomings in left. He continues playing Gattis there to keep his bat in the lineup -- two more hits, an RBI and a run scored in Game 3 -- knowing he can sub in B.J. Upton or Jordan Schafer in the late innings.
"He's hitting .500 [.444] for the playoffs," Gonzalez said. "Got three hits, and I don't think you could ask anything more from him. He's doing a nice job."
Either way, Gattis is just one player, and the Braves can sub him out at any time. That would only help one position out of nine at a time when the Braves have been struggling all over the diamond.
"It's not like we're trying to make those mistakes," outfielder Justin Upton said. "Some of those things happen, and they're just magnified a little bit more now."