In a matter of a few hours on Sunday, feelings of hope once again turned into feelings of helplessness for Braves fans.
As the Mets allowed the Pirates to earn a 6-0 lead while the Braves jumped out to an early 3-0 lead on the Rays, it seemed as if Atlanta would be closer to the top of the NL East division than it had been in months. Unfortunately, a positive outcome once again was merely a mirage. Over the next few hours, both the Mets and Rays would score seven runs each and earn big come from behind victories. Meanwhile, an opportunity to get within two games of the Mets actually turned into Atlanta once again being four games behind in the standings.
The Braves bullpen once again was to blame, allowing four runs over 3 1⁄3 innings. In a series against one of the best teams in baseball, the Braves had multiple opportunities to secure a sweep. Unfortunately, they lost the series. Though 70 games is more than enough time to make up a four game deficit, the Braves margin for error is certainly small. The issue is, outside of Will Smith, there simply is not a trustworthy reliever on the Braves roster at the moment. If the Braves view themselves as buyers, this is the area of the team that must be upgraded.
Fortunately, the initial returns from the two additions already made by the Braves have been successful. In two starts, Joc Pederson has a walk, single, double, and home run against left-handed pitching alone. Stephen Vogt went 3-4 with an RBI in his debut Sunday. The Braves offense seems ready to do what it needs to do in order to make a run at the division lead. They certainly will need to continue to score runs, especially late in games, to earn some wins.
- Though many arms in the bullpen have struggled as of late, A.J. Minter has certainly experienced some of the more noticeable letdowns.
Minter has a 7.45 ERA, two losses and two blown saves in his past 15 appearances, and has allowed 17 hits, eight earned runs and four walks in 9 2/3 innings in that span.— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) July 18, 2021
As a result, the Braves optioned Minter to Gwinnett after the game on Sunday. Hopefully, Minter can regain the form he showed last year in many key moments and return to the majors later this year.
- Mark Bowman dives even further into the Braves consistent struggles late in games over at MLB.com. As Bowman notes, the Atlanta bullpen has directly contributed to 22 of the 47 Braves losses this season, including squandering a lead 10 times after the sixth inning this season. That is the most in the majors.
- Bowman also notes that the Braves could be buyers and sellers at the trade deadline. While the Braves certainly do need additional pitching, if their results take a negative turn, several Braves pitchers could also be of interest to other teams.
- The Talking Chop staff goes into detail about which area of the team they each feel the Braves should focus on upgrading at the deadline.
- Though the bullpen may be the obvious priority, more offensive upgrades are not a bad route to take with trades. In fact, one of the more logical targets for Atlanta’s outfield and offense seems to clearly be on the market:
Extension talks are over between Starling Marte and the Marlins per sources. As I reported previously they were never close. Miami now can move forward with trade proposals.— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) July 19, 2021
Marte would certainly be a rental, and likely would cost a bit more than Vogt or Pederson. However, he clearly would be another nice addition to the Braves lineup.
- The Cardinals Alex Reyes enjoyed a bit of history on Sunday. Reyes, who is certainly having a great breakout season after years of injuries, set a new MLB record for the most consecutive saves at the start of a career without blowing one. In the process, the Cardinals earned a much needed series win over the Giants.
- Former Braves Mike Foltynewicz had a very unfortunate outing for the Rangers in their 10-0 loss to the Blue Jays. As David O’Brien noted, Foltynewicz has now allowed the most home runs in the majors this season. It will be interesting to see what his role will be in Texas moving forward.
- MLB.com identifies several potential trade targets who can be controlled beyond this season. Though a few reports have suggested the Braves are not likely to go after any big names, several of these players could make sense for Atlanta in both 2021 and beyond.