Welcome to the dog days of August. Problem: It’s only April.
The Braves lost to the St. Louis Cardinals 12-7 Sunday. This allowed them to complete a perfect homestand to open the season — at least considered perfect in the infernal regions way, way south of here. They went 0-5, so they remain on a pace to go 0-162. That somehow seems appropriate in the same season the franchise created the deformed offspring of a hamburger and a pizza.
At the risk of irritating the Braves’ marketing suits, who would prefer you focus on their new mutant food creations, magnetic schedule giveaways and fond reminders (corporate euphemism) of this being their final season at Turner Field, here’s your five-game reality check.
This team stinks. No, I mean it really stinks — way worse than most even expected it to stink, which means sportsbooks’ dire projections of 66 to 67 wins is starting to look optimistic. The Braves hadn’t started 0-5 since the 1988 season, when they opened 0-10 on the way to going 54-106.
If you live in a world of rainbows and unicorns and you believe things will get better, at least in the near future, close your eyes.
Centerfielder and leadoff hitter Ender Inciarte, whose entire game depends on his speed, went on the disabled list Sunday with a wonky hamstring. Reliever Dan Winkler, another of the Braves’ post-Tommy John reclamation projects, dropped to his knees in pain in the seventh inning after suffering a right elbow fracture while delivering a pitch.
In another move, the Braves shipped the remains of reliever John Gant (four runs, six hits, two homers, several dreams crushed, in three innings) to Triple A Gwinnett before the game. So before opening a seven-game trip at Washington Monday night, the Braves’ roster will include three new players who weren’t considered good enough to make them out of spring training.
They return home April 19. There are tickets available. Also roster spots.
While you consider whether to spend money on this team in a season when management has made it clear that it doesn’t care about winning, here are some ugly details about the Braves’ 0-5 start.
• The offense produced seven runs Sunday. After 10 runs in the first four games, this is akin to angels singing. But the loss of Inciarte will hurt a lineup that still ranks 26th in runs (17), 29th in batting average (.198) and 28th in OPS (.595). For all of their other weaknesses, the Braves were expected to be better offensively this season so this is a significant concern, especially with Inciarte being shelved for at least two weeks.
• The Braves did not commit an error in the series finale against St. Louis but they had three in Saturday’s 12-2 loss, giving them six already this season (27th in the majors). Their fielding percentage of .968 ranks 29th entering Monday. You know what you can’t have when you have poor starting pitching and an even worse bullpen? Lousy defense.
Shortstop Erick Aybar has two errors. Andrelton Simmons, who now plays for the Los Angeles Angels because of a trade that still doesn’t make sense, didn’t make an error in the first five games. Don’t all jump up at once.
• Pitching was expected to be a problem for the Braves. So in that sense, they haven’t let anybody down. Six Braves combined for nine walks, three hits batters and two wild pitches Sunday. Imagine if they didn’t have two months in Florida to get ready. Braves’ pitchers rank among the majors’ worst in walks (27, 27th), wild pitches (seven, 30th), batters plunked (four, 24th), opponents batting average (.276, 26th) and the good ol’ earned run average (6.65, 28th).
The Cardinals scored 31 runs in three games. The Braves have been outscored 38-17 in five games. Five home games.
Next, they go to Washington four games, where they’ll face Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg and Tanner Roark.
It’s only April. But it’s already feeling like a long season.
Recent ramblings from the Digital Jukebox
- ‘Religious liberty’ bill turned into an Alabama-Vanderbilt game
- Tim Hardaway, Jr. impressing critics, Hawks and his father
- OK, Mike Bobinski, let’s see what you’ve got
- (Early) Nothing Gregory did this season was going to save his job
- Kirby Smart is wrong … but then so is everybody else on transfers
- Ranking Atlanta’s top coaches, from Budenholzer to… um…
- Sticky ball? NBA looks like bigger goofball than Dwight Howard
- Where sports and politics collide, Georgia loses
- Georgia legislators step in it, could lose Super Bowl, other events
- Brian Gregory fighting ‘disappointment’ of uncertain future
- Keith Marshall had fast combine time but is he NFL running back?
- Taking a Digi-Blog stroll through Georgia’s spring practice
- Kirby Smart’s fingerprints are all over changes at Georgia
- Goodell may be stripped of player discipline power (it’s about time)
- Dan Quinn staying loyal to Shanahan, staff amid heat
- Poll: To keep or fire Brian Gregory? It’s not an easy decision (again)
- $32 million for Sanu? Falcons overpaid to replace Roddy White (updated)
- Spring training: Braves putting a lot on Julio Teheran’s shoulders
- Alex Mack was safest and best choice Falcons could make in free agency
- Spring training: Amid Braves’ makeover, Freeman says he never considering asking out
- Spring training: Braves’ camp in Disney causes extra wear, move would be welcomed
- Falcons’ embarrassing incidents have eroded confidence
- Spring training: Unlike more rookies, Braves’ Olivera has limited time to meet expectations
- If Falcons’ inept questioning widespread, somebody should lose their job
- Spring training: Down goes a Braves’ pitcher with Tommy John surgery (surprise!)
- Spring training: Fredi Gonzalez is looking to lead, no matter the circumstances
- Spring training: As Braves acquire prospects, Lucas Sims still trying to prove his worth
- Spring training: Francoeur’s bumpy journey brings him back to Braves for one last shot