The Braves were shutout for just the second time all season last night, falling 1-0 to the Phillies in what was another brutal performance from the offense. With just 12 games to play, time is running out for the Braves to catch the Mets, and things will only get tougher tonight with Aaron Nola on the mound for the Phillies.
The root of the issue lies in the heart of Atlanta’s lineup. Matt Olson is in a slump of epic proportions, one he believes is the worst of his entire life.
“I’m sure there were a couple (of previous slumps) similar, but as far as the quality of at-bats — or, I should say, the low quality — this one’s up there,” Olson said, via David O’Brien of The Athletic.
If there’s been a worse slump throughout Olson’s entire career, it couldn’t be by much. The Braves first baseman is hitting just .101 over his 22 games with a .354 OPS, but the struggles only begin with Olson.
The MVP of the last two seasons, Austin Riley, is also amid his worst slump of the season. Prior to last night, he was hitting just .155 in his last 15 games with two homers and four RBIs. Dansby Swanson has gone cold at the worst time as well, hitting .212 with two homers in his last 24 games, and Ronald Acuña Jr. hasn’t been much better, recording a .727 OPS in September.
The good news is the depth of the Braves lineup has kept the team afloat, preventing a lengthy losing streak. The bad news is that even a few losses could spell Atlanta’s doom at this point. The Mets are now 1.5 games up and own the tiebreaker for the division. In a couple of weeks, the Braves could find themselves in a three-game Wild Card series, which won’t be comfortable with the way their offense looks today.
Admittedly, things feel like they are slipping away. The team looks like they’ve hit a wall, and the Mets aren’t giving them any breaks, but I’m far away from the panic button. The Braves are still on pace to win 100 games. They have an elite pitching staff, and their lineup might be the best in all of baseball from top to bottom.
I know what Acuña, Swanson, Riley, and Olson are capable of. This game is a fickle one, and it will humble you in the blink of an eye. This isn’t the first lackadaisical stretch the Braves have gone through this year, and they’ve always come out better on the other side. I fully expect the Braves lineup to break out of this funk, and when all the chips are on the line, I still like their chances to beat anyone in the league.