Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez believes it’s only a matter of time until his club breaks out of its offensive slump, but the most recent results haven’t been encouraging.
The Braves will try to avoid a third straight shutout and their ninth consecutive loss at Miller Park on Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers.
After consecutive 2-0 losses in the series’ first two games - Saturday marking the major league-leading 11th time the Braves (43-33) have been shut out - they haven’t scored since the third inning of Thursday’s 4-3 loss to the Mets. They’ve produced only 28 runs through a 4-8 stretch.
Saturday’s defeat was Atlanta’s fifth in six games and it was the eighth time in the last 12 contests the club failed to hit a home run. The Braves’ 93 homers are among the most in baseball and they’ve proven to rely heavily on that power.
They’re 4-24 in games in which they don’t homer compared to 39-9 when hitting at least one.
Numerous players are dealing with individual struggles, with Jason Heyward 5 for 28, Freddie Freeman 2 for 20, Brian McCann 1 for 16 and Justin Upton - who got an off-day Saturday - 4 for his last 30. All four, who have 34 home runs on the season, are homerless during those respective slumps.
“We’re getting on base, but when we do hit the ball hard, it’s at somebody or somebody makes a good play,” Gonzalez said. “I feel like, at any moment, some of the at-bats that you’re seeing, at any moment you’re going to turn that around.”
Facing Milwaukee starter Donovan Hand - who was making his first big league start Saturday - didn’t provide an antidote, as Atlanta managed two hits off the rookie in 4 2-3 innings and four total.
Sunday will be the second straight game in which the Braves face a starter they haven’t seen before as Alfredo Figaro (1-1, 3.88 ERA) gets the nod for Milwaukee (31-42). Perhaps Gonzalez’s club can rediscover its power as Figaro has surrendered five home runs in four starts spanning 21 2-3 innings and allows 1.52 homers per nine innings for his career.
A three-run shot from Carlos Pena chased Figaro from his start at Houston on Tuesday after 4 1-3 innings, which he needed 94 pitches to get through. He was charged with five runs in the 10-1 defeat.
Figaro needed 88 pitches to throw seven shutout innings in his previous outing at Miami.
“Maybe it was the day off yesterday; I didn’t do anything. Maybe that’s why,” said Figaro, normally a long reliever, but has taken over a spot in the rotation after Mike Fiers was demoted to Triple-A earlier this month. “But you have to compete. It’s no excuse to say I didn’t have energy; I have to compete and try to do my job.”
Paul Maholm (7-6, 3.57) tries to end a six-game losing streak against the Brewers as he starts for Atlanta, which has been a bad omen for team’s offense lately. The left-hander has received three runs of support over his last three outings, going 0-2 despite a 3.15 ERA. Atlanta supported him with an average of 6.14 runs through his first 12 starts as he went 7-4.
He’s 3-11 with a 5.12 ERA in 22 starts against Milwaukee, which he hasn’t beaten since Aug. 19, 2009, while with Pittsburgh. Maholm owns a 6.34 ERA while losing six of his last seven starts versus the Brewers.
Carlos Gomez is 8 for 18 off Maholm with a .722 slugging percentage.