Braves offense struggles to lose series to Brewers

MILWAUKEE — It may seem ridiculous to criticize the offense after the Braves suffered a 7-6, 11-inning loss to the Brewers on Wednesday afternoon at American Family Park. The squad scored four points against defending National League Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes. And it was the bullpen that squandered the leads in the ninth, 10th and 11th innings.

Still, if you look at the big picture and assess what has been the Braves’ most glaring problem thus far, it’s hard to ignore how badly the offense has underperformed this year. Back-to-back homers Austin Riley and Marcell Ozuna hit Burnes in the third from four runs created encouragement. But the six scoreless innings that followed left no room for error as Kenley Jansen’s 26-game save streak ended with two outs in the ninth.

“Keep adding to this game is what you need to do,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “[Burnes] is a tough race, but you still have to do it.

Keston Hiura’s two-run homer against Jesse Chavez ended this turbulent battle. But perhaps the most influential plate appearance came when Jansen accompanied Jace Peterson to start the ninth. Peterson scored when Kolten Wong hit a 3-2 high fastball for a two-out tying triple. Wong fought back from an 0-2 count.

“It’s just a great hit from Kolten Wong,” Jansen said. ” What can I say ? The first step killed me.

Perhaps at this precise moment, Jansen did not do his job. But with the Braves losing 21 of their first 38 games, their problem hasn’t been closer to this veteran, who has posted a 1.71 ERA in the 46 appearances he’s made since his last failed save from the 2021 season.

Jansen didn’t like the result, and Max Fried felt he was fighting off an inconsistent fastball drive while giving the Brewers three runs in six innings. But it’s not the pitching staff who have to change things for the Braves to pitch this year.

“These guys are awesome,” Jansen said. “They are world champions. I expect them to keep holding their heads up high and improving. I think it’s going to happen very soon here. We have to keep throwing well. Big things are will produce when you keep throwing well and the attack resumes.

The Braves roster includes six players who have had at least one 30-home run season in the past three years. Dansby Swanson, who has been the team’s most consistent hitter, completed three homers before joining the 30-homer club last year.

So it’s not necessarily surprising to see the Braves second among National League teams with 47 homers. But the lack of consistent production throughout the lineup also saw the defending World Series champions sit ninth in the 15-team NL in both sets and OPS at the end of Wednesday’s game.

The Braves have scored in just three of the first 27 innings of this three-game series. Yeah, the Brewers have one of the best pitching teams in the game. But championship-caliber teams should only do hat-tipping.

“I’ve seen some things in this series start to fall into place in the right direction,” Snitker said. “There are some really good things happening right now. I saw a lot of positive signs in this series.

Ozuna’s bat has been lifeless most of the past few weeks, but he managed to go 4-for-11 with two home runs in the series. Albies also drove a few balls against the wall. The Riley circuit was his eighth of the year, but his first since May 2.

Another bright spot was the return of Ronald Acuña Jr., who missed five games with groin pain before returning and making his presence known immediately in Tuesday’s win. His only significant contribution on Wednesday came when his elbow pad was nicked by a two-out pitch in front of Riley and Ozuna’s home runs against Burnes.

Matt Olson then leads the Majors with 15 doubles and his .820 OPS is the team’s only OPS above .800 among skilled hitters. But the first baseman has only hit .176 with a .631 OPS in 24 games dating back to April 22. That problem is the fact that he has been more productive than Ozzie Albies (.598 OPS), Adam Duvall (.543 OPS) and Ozuna (.521) during this span.

Still, the Braves remain optimistic about their ability to follow last year’s path, which was bumpy until late July and then fairly smooth until the end of the World Series.

“I think things are starting to click into place and you’re going to see some guys taking off soon,” Fried said.

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