Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves

The Braves are regressing badly

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The Braves were 12-1 after their victory over the Royals on April 16. They had just rattled off ten consecutive wins, due to an incredibly potent offense and unhittable pitching. The Braves hit three or more home runs in three of their first five games with Justin Upton hitting one just about every night. In fact, of their 29 games on the season, they have hit multiple home runs in 11 of them. Word quickly spread that the Braves were the presumptive heir to the slow-starting Nationals’ throne atop the NL East.

Problem was, it was never going to last. Justin was never going to continue his 97-homer pace. Paul Maholm, with a career 4.23 ERA, wasn’t going to go the whole season without giving up a run as he did in his first 26 innings. They weren’t going to avoid injuries all year. The struggles of Dan Uggla, Andrelton Simmons, and B.J. Upton couldn’t continue to be swept under the rug.

Since April 17, the Braves are 5-11. They’re still in first place, but tenuously so as they nurse a 2.5-game lead over the second-place Nationals. They have averaged 3.25 runs per game, scoring three or fewer runs nine times in 16 games while striking out 156 times in 590 plate appearances (26%).

The Braves have had the second-fewest opportunities with runners in scoring position (236 PA) in the National League. In those scant opportunities, they are hitting .230. Despite the team’s prodigious power, their .316 on-base percentage is only two points better than the NL average. They steal bases both infrequently and with poor efficiency, making them baseball’s fifth-worst base-stealing team according to Baseball Prospectus.

This isn’t to say the Braves are a sham, but they will sure look like one every time they enter their bust cycle shortly after the boom. They can pitch with the best of them, but their homer-reliant offense will make their hurlers a nonfactor in every drought. The good news, though, is that they play in the same division as the Marlins, Mets, and Phillies, so they’ll have plenty of opportunities to pick up cheap wins as they keep the Nationals in their crosshairs.

Report: Cubs, Yankees agree on Aroldis Chapman trade

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 17:  Aroldis Chapman #54 of the New York Yankees delivers a pitch in the ninth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on July 17, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The deal between the Cubs and Yankees involving closer Aroldis Chapman, first reported on Sunday, is complete according to Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball. The Cubs will get Chapman while the Yankees will receive infield prospect Gleyber Torres, outfield prospect Billy McKinney, pitcher Adam Warren, and one more as yet unnamed player.

Torres, 19, is rated the Cubs’ #1 prospect and #24 overall in baseball by MLB Pipeline. The shortstop has spent the season with Single-A Myrtle Beach, batting .275/.359/.433 with nine home runs, 47 RBI, 62 runs scored, and 19 stolen bases in 409 plate appearances. The Cubs, however, already have Addison Russell at shortstop and have middle infield prospect Ian Happ.

Since returning to the Yankees, Chapman has recorded 20 saves in 21 chances with a 2.01 ERA and a 44/8 K/BB ratio in 31 1/3 innings. Chapman will become eligible for free agency after the season. Andrew Miller will likely move into the closer’s role with Dellin Betances setting up the eighth inning for the Yankees.

We’ll have more on the details of the trade shortly.

Settling the Scores: Sunday’s results

ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 24: Starter Mike Mayers #59 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning at Busch Stadium on July 24, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Kane/Getty Images)
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Craig’s off through Wednesday, so it looks like it’s just you and me again.

Mike Mayers made his major league debut, starting for the Cardinals during Sunday night’s nationally broadcast game against the Dodgers. The 24-year-old must have felt like he was in a horror film, as the Dodgers tore him down limb-by-limb. Chase Utley led off the top of the first inning with a single. Corey Seager followed up with a single of his own and Justin Turner drew a walk. Adrian Gonzalez promptly unloaded the bases with a grand slam on a 2-2 slider, putting the Dodgers up 4-0 before Mayers was able to record the first out. Opposing starter Scott Kazmir would tack on two more runs with a single before Mayers could escape the inning.

Mayers got Seager out to start the top of the second inning, but back-to-back singles by Turner and Gonzalez followed by a three-run home run to Howie Kendrick would end the rookie’s night earlier than anticipated. He left trailing 9-1, recording only four outs. In his 1 1/3 innings, Mayers was on the hook for nine earned runs on eight hits and a pair of walks with one strikeout. It’s a rough way to start a career, but probably not indicative of his skill level. Mayers posted a combined 2.62 ERA in 18 starts split evenly between Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis.

The Cardinals would make a game out of it, scoring twice in the bottom of the second to make it 9-3, then tacked on three more in the seventh before ultimately losing 9-6.

Box scores.

Blue Jays 2, Mariners 0
Diamondbacks 9, Reds 8
Orioles 5, Indians 3
Mets 3, Marlins 0
Red Sox 8, Twins 7
Padres 10, Nationals 6
White Sox 4, Tigers 3 (Game 1)
White Sox 5, Tigers 4 (Game 2)
Pirates 5, Phillies 4
Astros 13, Angels 3
Cubs 6, Brewers 5
Rangers 2, Royals 1
Rockies 7, Braves 2
Athletics 3, Rays 2
Yankees 5, Giants 2
Dodgers 9, Cardinals 6