Closer than it ought to have been. While Bryce Elder limited the Mets to just two hits and three walks over 5 1/3, his team left 11 men on base, and Marcell Ozuna‘s solo shot in the 5th proved to be the margin. These Mets just aren’t a very good team – their five-hole hitter, Daniel Vogelbach, has a career slash line of .219/.342/.409, and he still is probably their fifth-best hitter – and the closeness of the margin reflects the degree to which the Braves offense has been scuffling over the past week with Albies on the shelf.
(Vogelbach’s the reason for the closeness of the margin, of course, with his two-run homer off Pierce Johnson.)
Since Bryce Elder‘s last start on August 15, blanking the Yankees 5-0, the Braves have scored 22 runs in six games while yielding 21; they’ve gone 4-2, with two shutouts, one blowout loss (10-4 against the Mets), and three one-run games which they split 2-1. Obviously, we knew that the offense wouldn’t keep putting up eight runs a game, but the team has clearly been on a cold streak, and is keenly feeling the absence of its sparkplug second baseman. Most of the games in this past week have actually not resulted from a failure to convert opportunities: only the 4-0 win against the Giants, when the team left another 12 men on base, had a number similarly lopsided to last night.
Really, though, it’s been a struggle for the entire “let’s play every day” All-Star lineup: in the first four spots of the lineup, Ronald Acuña Jr, Michael Harris II, Austin Riley, and Matt Olson have gone a combined 16-90 with eight walks; Orlando Arcia has gone 3-18; and the catcher platoon, Travis d’Arnaud and Sean Murphy, has gone 2-21. Combined, those seven players, representing six spots in the lineup, have gone 21-129 with 10 RBI and 12 walks.
Meanwhile, Ozuna and Rozario have gone 20-37 with 11 RBI and four walks. Those two have more or less outproduced the entire lineup by themselves.
Ultimately, in one sense, the past week has been an illustration of the Braves’ depth: even though almost the entire lineup is ice cold, the team went 4-2 for the week, because the starting pitching has started to round into form, the bullpen is finally producing the results that were anticipated going into the season, particularly from the Jimenez-Minter-Iglesias tandem that preserved the one-run lead last night (despite Iglesias’s knack for making things interesting); and the two least valuable members of the regular lineup still retain enough offensive talent to carry the team on their back for a week. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining too much after a win over the Mets!
But I’ve always firmly believed that periodic rest is extremely important for players, even young players, and particularly anyone who makes their home in the South. It could just be a one-week blip; it could also be a hell of a long summer. Last year, we saw what happened when an extremely talented team is just totally worn down by the end of the year. I hope Snit can find ways of keeping the guys fresh after the long summer for what we all hope will be a long autumn.