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.

Matt Adams placed on DL with fractured left index finger

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The Nationals made a handful of roster decisions on Tuesday, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports. Pitcher Wander Suero was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse and 1B/OF Matt Adams was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a fractured left index finger. With the two open roster spots, the Nationals recalled pitcher Jefry Rodriguez from Syracuse to start against the Orioles and added recently-acquired reliever Kelvin Herrera to the roster.

Adams, 29, was hit on the hand attempting to lay down a bunt on Friday. He has been quite productive for the Nationals this year, batting .275/.351/.575 with 13 home runs and 36 RBI in 171 plate appearances.

Adams was splitting time at first base with Mark Reynolds. Daniel Murphy drew starts at first base over the weekend, so it could be a Reynolds/Murphy split there now with Wilmer Difo remaining at second base.

In his major league debut on June 3, the 24-year-old Rodriguez pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of Jeremy Hellickson, who lasted just one-third of an inning. Tuesday’s start will be his first at the big league level. At Double-A Harrisburg this season, Rodriguez posted a 3.31 ERA with a 72/28 K/BB ratio in 68 innings.