The Braves squandered a golden opportunity to keep pace with the Philadelphia Phillies by dropping both games of a two-game series to the reeling Washington Nationals. An ugly affair for the Braves that could come back to bite them in what will be a long, drawn-out race with the Phillies.
In the two-game series, the Braves were outscored 19-8, and the only reason it was that close was Austin Riley’s late-game heroics in both games that came too late, but more on Riley later. Max Fried was the first Nationals victim when he got beaten up for 9 hits and 4 earned runs before being runout in the sixth inning. Fried got it bad, but nothing compared to what happened to Kevin Gausman in the final game of the short series. Gausman got beat up so badly, he couldn’t get through the first inning. A historic night for Gausman, just not the kind of history he wanted to make.
Coming into the series with the Nationals, the Braves had been playing good baseball. After the Dodgers series, when the Braves were swept, the team had won all series against Arizona, St. Louis twice, San Francisco, and Milwaukee. The Braves were riding high, and just sat a game and a half behind the Phillies for the NL East lead. Now, after the Phillies have won their last two games, the Braves are sitting three and a half games behind the NL East leaders. Two games may not seem like a lot in May, but two games can be the difference in making the playoffs or staying home in October.
The Braves offense was an issue this series, too. Austin Riley accounted for four of the Braves eight runs with one swing on the bat that came much too late in the game to make a difference. Riley can take credit for another two runs when he blasted a home run late in the first game. Besides Riley, Markakis and McCann were the only Braves able to record an RBI in the series. Atlanta has started to become a team that is too dependent on the long ball to produce offense. If the Braves don’t start finding ways to put the ball in play within the park, this offense will continue to struggle manufacturing runs.
Let’s look at some positives of the series. As mentioned above, Austin Riley continued his red-hot streak at the plate. Riley hit two home runs in the two-game series, including his first ever grand slam. Riley, now hitting .375/.407/.786, continues to amaze. It was assumed Riley wouldn’t be going back to the minors. After this series, it seems like the Braves offense would be lost if Riley was removed. Take a look at these numbers.
The good news for the Braves, coming off this quick, disappointing sweep, is their next opponent, the Detroit Tigers. The Braves will stay home for a three-game series with the Tigers, a team that has lost 7 of their last ten. Detroit is just what the Braves needed coming off of this ugly series with the Nationals. Atlanta has a night off before starting their series with Detroit on Friday.