The Braves’ three-city trip ended abruptly with a big blown lead in an ugly eighth inning Saturday and a wintry-mix postponement Sunday at Chicago’s Wrigley Field.
But all in all, they could look at the 4-4 trip and the 8-6 start to their season and be pleased.
“If you’d have told me in the middle of March that we’d be sitting where we are, I’d have been fine,” said manager Brian Snitker, whose Braves led the majors in on-base percentage (.370) before Sunday and led the National League in runs (82), hits (135), doubles (37), batting average (.270) and OPS (.801). “The trip was good – if we’d have pulled that one out yesterday it would’ve been really good.”
The Braves won two of three games at Colorado, then dropped two of three at Washington and split the two games at Wrigley Field, where they will return May 14 to make up Sunday’s postponed series finale.
“Yeah, all thing considered,” Braves catcher Kurt Suzuki said when asked if he were pleased with the results. “We played some tough teams on this road trip; three playoff teams last year. And to play the way we did was definitely nice.
“We would’ve liked to have come away with a couple more victories, but we’ll take it.”
If Sunday’s game had been played, a win would’ve given the Braves four series wins in their first five for the first time since 2014, when they won seven of their first eight series. They’ll open a seven-game homestand Monday with the first of three against the Phillies.
“The two games in Washington, that can happen when you face guys like that (Nationals starters Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg),” Snitker said Sunday morning. “But it was good to win the series in Colorado and potentially have the chance to do that here (in Chicago).”
The Braves will keep their planned starters in order and bump each back a day, so Sunday’s scheduled starter Julio Teheran instead will pitch Monday’s series opener.
Mike Foltynewicz starts Tuesday and Brandon McCarthy, coming back from a partially dislocated non-pitching shoulder last week at Washington, will pitch Wednesday’s series finale against the Phillies.
Each of those starters will be on six days’ rest instead of the regular four because of the team’s day off Thursday and Sunday’s postponement.
The Braves also missed out Sunday on a chance of recording their first winning trip of nine or more games since August 2014. They finished a stretch of 11 consecutive games against teams that made the NL playoffs last year including home-and-home series with the Nationals and series at Colorado and Chicago.
“You always want to get off to a good start,” Suzuki said. “So far we’ve been playing some good baseball. Like I said, easily we could have came away with a couple more victories, but the start’s been good.”
The Braves’ average run-differential of plus-1.9 per game is the fourth-best in baseball and second-best in the National League, though their starting pitchers are 15th in the majors in ERA (3.86). Their relievers had ranked among the majors’ statistical leaders but slipped to ninth in ERA (2.88) after Saturday’s debacle.
They led 10-2 after four innings Saturday and still led 10-5 before the Cubs scored nine runs in an eighth inning that featured as many bases-loaded walks (three) as hits (three) for a 14-10 win. Sam Freeman, who had walked only two batters in his previous nine appearances, issued three walks without recording an out Saturday, including two bases-loaded walks to let in runs in the nine-run inning.
Saturday’s game was played in conditions that started out wet and windy with a wind chill of 28 degrees and deteriorated as the game wore on. Both managers, Snitker and the Cubs’ Joe Maddon, said afterward that the game shouldn’t have been played and conditions were worse than any they had ever been part of in baseball.
“When you went out on the mound it was 10 times worse than it was in the dugout, and it was miserable in the dugout,” Snitker said. “I don’t know how they did it. I mean, infielders, the first time I went out they were all plotting to shuffle the ball because they said we can’t throw it. Ozzie (Albies) said he couldn’t squeeze his glove. Zukey (Suzuki) said he couldn’t give signs; his fingers weren’t working.”
After being told Sunday’s game was postponed and would be made up May 14, Snitker agreed it was the right decision.
“I mean, especially after we got through it yesterday with nobody getting hurt -- which I was really worried about,” he said. “I did (worry). I ‘bout pulled a muscle going to the mound the first time, no faster than I was going. That was unbelievable that we got through it….
“(Coming back) is fine with me. If I’d have known what we would go through (Saturday) I would have came back to play a doubleheader and been fine with it.”