Possibly the worst loss of the season. The only other game that really compares is the 10-2 loss to the Padres on April 9, but that was early and this is midseason. Cade’s precis of the first game, sadly, wasn’t too far off: “Shaky starting pitching and a leaky bullpen ultimately led to a Braves loss in Monday’s contest.”
Once again, a rookie came up and stymied the bats; once again, sloppy play on the field put us behind the eight-ball; once again, the bullpen allowed things to go from bad to worse as Snitker had to conserve his better arms.
Spencer Strider struck out eleven men, but he gave up a run in the first on a leadoff double to Mookie Betts followed by an RBI single by Will Smith, and a solo shot to Jason Heyward, who ambushed a fastball; two more runs scored in the second after Matt Olson embarrassingly Buckner’d a groundball, and Will Smith hit another RBI double. You can’t really blame Spencer for this one; he wasn’t perfect, but he was generally very good. (On the other hand, you just might be able to blame Ozuna, who clearly ticked off Smith something fierce.)
Unfortunately, the highlights of this game are really Dodger highlights. The fresher making his debut was a fireballer named Bobby Miller, whose very first pitch touched 100 on the gun. He needed 95 pitches to go five innings, but he allowed a single run on just four hits and one walk, so it certainly qualifies as a successful first impression. More impressive were the four no-hit innings by the Dodger bullpen. Last night’s lineup saw Sam Hilliard in for Michael Harris, turning in an ohfer; Marcell Ozuna at DH, doing the same; Eddie Rosario in left, matching their efforts.
There aren’t many conclusions worth drawing from a stinker in May. I’m no more worried about this team than I was a day ago. Mark Bowman didn’t focus too much on last night’s game in his recap, devoting much of the text and half of the headline to excitement about Mike Soroka’s latest rehab start, in which he fanned eight while recording six effective innings on 97 pitches. That’s nice, but it doesn’t change things either. It is a long, long summer.
What this team needs is what it’s needed all along: more offense out of the outfield, including Michael Harris breaking out of his season-long slump; more pitching in the rotation; more help in the bullpen. Being in first place limits the urgency of each of these needs. It’s the opposite of the three-month-long stretch run last year, where the effort to catch the Mets clearly left the whole team plum tuckered out with hardly anything left in October.
Giving a day’s rest to Harris so he can get a reset is a good idea. So might be an occasional off day for Riley and Olson, too. Both are clearly pressing, as you can tell from their postgame quotes, and both have played every single one of the Braves’ games. Snitker has the pulse of the clubhouse and the unwavering trust of his players, so I am sure he will get the best from them as he always does. But this is a team that feels like it’s in its summer doldrums. The June Swoon just came a week early.
Let’s get ’em tonight.