Well, the Blue Jays have been a good team so far this year, and they proved it with a series sweep against the Braves. Injuries have continued to be a very concerning problem for Atlanta. Not to mention the starting rotation needs to become more consistent — along with the bullpen. Hopefully, when Fried and Soroka return (crossing my fingers that it’s sooner than later), the rotation problems will dwindle down. Injuries, we all know, will happen. The Braves have just had an extremely high amount for the first month of the season.
Game One: Drew Smyly vs. Robbie Ray, Braves lost 13-5
After hitting a ton against the Cubs, the Braves bats were not as lively in this game. Smyly’s pitching problems continued in this game. He has a tough time controlling the strike zone and giving up multiple long balls. In just four innings of work, he pitched into the fifth inning but could not retire a Blue Jay batter. He gave up seven hits, six runs, and three home runs. He threw a total of 84 pitches in those few innings of work. Only 46 of them were strikes. His command so far has proven to be his biggest problem along with getting batters out after he gets them to two strikes. The Braves did have a home run of their own. That was courtesy of my man, Ozzie Albies! He hit an absolute bomb in the top of the seventh inning to left center. It went a total of 424 feet and gave the game a score of Toronto 10, Braves 2. The Blue Jays however, kept scoring. Their bats were hot and stayed hot throughout the entire game (and series). They scored three more after Ozzie’s home run, and the Braves scored three more in the top of the eighth on RBI singles to bring the final score of the game to 13-5 with the Blue Jays on top.
Game Two: Charlie Morton vs. Blue Jays Bullpen, Braves lost 6-5
If you told me that Christian Pache would hit a grand slam in his first at-bat in his first game back after being on the injured list, I don’t think I would’ve believed you. But guess what, he did it! After three straight Braves singles to load the bases in the top of the second inning, with two outs, Pache came up to the plate and gave the Braves a huge second inning lead of 4-0. This was Pache’s first career grand slam, and it left the field in left center. That was a very exciting way for him to return and for the Braves to start the game!
But of course…Pitching, pitching, and pitching. That is something the Braves need to figure out. Morton has been the consistent guy on the mound for most of the season for Atlanta. Today wasn’t awful for him, but he wasn’t as “on top” of his game like we have gotten used to seeing. He gave up five runs in 5.1 innings of work. He didn’t qualify for a win, or ultimately the loss. In the top of the fifth inning, Ronald Acuña Jr. went long-ball again with an absolute missile over the left field wall. Man, this kid’s got some serious power!
Injuries. The Braves have gotten hit with the injury bug big time in the early days of the 2021 season. They had another one in this game, and it happened to Braves catcher, Travis d’Arnaud. In the bottom of the sixth inning, on a bad base running play by the Blue Jays’ center fielder, Randal Grichuk, he was thrown out at home plate on a relay throw from Marcell Ozuna to Dansby Swanson to d’Arnaud at the plate. Something happened to Travis’ thumb on his catching hand when he tagged out Grichuk at the plate. Obvioulsy that isn’t good for someone who has to catch 150+ baseballs almost every single day. He was taken out of the game and is now on the Braves 60-day IL with a torn thumb ligament. What a loss! Game 2 remained tied, so it went into extra innings. So far this season, the Braves have not done well in extra-inning games. They have only won one, and that didn’t come in this game. It was the bottom of the tenth inning, game is tied 5-5, and Nate Jones was on to pitch for the Braves. He started out well, retiring the first batter he saw and then, after an intentional walk to Vlad Guerrero Jr., he got a force out. Two men out, one more to get. But that didn’t happen. The next batter he faced, Randal Grichuk, had an RBI, game winning single. The Blue Jays won 6-5.
Game Three: Ian Anderson vs. Ryan Borucki, Braves lost 7-2
Ugh. Another Braves loss. Once again, the Braves started out looking like the game was going to go in their favor. William Contreras started off the second inning for the Braves with an RBI single, which scored my man Ozzie Albies, who reached base on a double. That 1-0 lead didn’t last long. The Blue Jays tied it in the bottom of the second, and they kept scoring from there. Anderson only went four innings. He gave up six hits, four runs, and three walks. Then it was up to the Braves’ bullpen. In the top of the fifth inning, Acuña hit a sac fly to score the second (and final) Braves run of the game.
Sometimes it just gets down-right hard to come up with something to say when you have to talk about a Braves loss. Again. On paper everything looks great for Atlanta. They have a good lineup, there’s no doubt about that. The main problems are 1) the Braves players can’t stay consistent in the positive. You will have some games where the whole lineup can’t stop hitting, and the others where they can hardly make any contact with the ball at all. 2) They have had too many injuries, and some of them are coming back to bite big time. And 3) Pitching. Pitching is a HUGE component of any baseball game, and if your starters can’t go at least five to six innings, that puts a ton of pressure on your bullpen and requires more work from them. The pitching is what is showing to be the biggest problem for the Braves. Hopefully, once Max Fried comes back, it will add more depth to the rotation and the Braves will start wining games more consistently.