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The Daily Chop: Big loss to Nats, Acuña keeps pace in homer race, and more

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Acuña hit No. 17, but pitching remains a challenge for Atlanta

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Braves were unable to get back to .500 after allowing double-digit runs to the Nationals in Tuesday’s 11-6 loss. The bats showed up, but the arms and gloves let the team down in what’s been a season-long phenomenon of fairly ineffective run prevention for the Braves this season. At the time of writing, which includes a handful of June 1 games still in progress, the Braves are eighth in total runs allowed, fifth-worst in park-adjusted FIP, and sixth-worst in park-adjusted ERA. The combination of the league’s second-highest HR/FB rate allowed and mediocre defense has forced the bats into having to score again and again to keep pace — something that has proven difficult to achieve on any consistent basis.

The Braves also continue to put themselves in difficult positions: coming into play today, they were top 10 in allowing starters to face the opposing batting order a third time, but with the league’s fifth-worst wOBA allowed, eight-worst FIP, and sixth-worst xFIP when doing so. To put things into perspective, Braves starters have a 5.85 ERA, 5.11 FIP, and 4.86 xFIP the third time through the order; the entire bullpen is at 4.69, 4.18, and 4.38, respectively. Tuesday’s loss was no different in this regard, as Max Fried retired just one of three batters he faced the third time through before being pulled, with Juan Soto extending the Nats’ lead from one run to three runs with a single that chased Fried. The kicker is that the Braves aren’t saving their bullpen either: despite ranking ninth in games in which a starter has faced the lineup a third time, the Braves are middle of the pack in both outs recorded and batters faced the third time through. All they’re doing is having the starters pitch poorly, and requiring relievers to bail them out anyway.

In happier news, Ronald Acuña Jr. connected for long ball number 17 in the loss, a towering drive to left-center off Austin Voth. That kept pace on the MLB leaderboard with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who also homered earlier in the day. Acuña now has 2.7 fWAR after his 3-for-4 day that also included a walk, and is back in the top five among all MLB position players. According to Mark Bowman, Acuña joins Eddie Mathews, Andres Galarraga, Hank Aaron, and Dale Murphy in the “Club of Braves who have homered 17 times in the first 52 games of a season.”

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The Giants have placed Scott Kazmir on the restricted list, as he is currently dealing with a personal matter. Kazmir, who was once acquired by the Braves in the 2017-2018 offseason (but did not pitch for them), had four-year layoff from major league pitching before making a couple of appearances for San Francisco earlier this year.