0-6 start for Braves has been group effort

WASHINGTON — How does a team lose its first six games despite leading at least once in five of those games, and leading in the seventh inning or later in four of the six?

I’m glad you asked.

The Braves staked Bud Norris to a 2-0 lead in the first inning Monday and a 4-3 lead after two innings, but he couldn't hold them in the team's sixth straight loss to open to the season. (AP photo)

The Braves staked Bud Norris to a 2-0 lead in the first inning Monday and a 4-3 lead after two innings, but he couldn’t hold them in a 6-4 loss to the Nationals, the team’s sixth straight loss to open the season. (AP photo)

Let’s count the ways in which the Braves have stumbled to that 0-6 start, including five games at home to mark the first winless Braves homestand of five or more games since 2006. Not five or more to start a season; five or more home games at any point in a season.

You do it by….

— Your hitters ranking 29th in the majors in batting average (.209) and 28th in OPS (.606), while your pitchers are 29th in ERA (6.67) and allow three times as many homers (nine) as your own team has hit.

—  Your bullpen ranking 29th with a 7.84 ERA, ahead of only the Rockies, and your relievers have allowed a majors-high 17 walks and a majors-worst .417 on-base percentage.

—  Your defenders ranking 28th in fielding percentage (.968). Still, that conventional statistic doesn’t even begin to tell the story of how costly some errors and other defensive mistakes at the most crucial junctures of games have been. The kind that lead directly to losses, of which there have already been a few in just six games.

— Your pitchers ranking last in the majors with a .378 opponents’ batting average in the late innings of close games, while your hitters are batting just .133 (6-for-45) in those same situations. Adonis Garcia, Drew Stubbs and DL’d Ender Inciarte are a combined 4-for-8 in those late-and-close situations, while the rest of the Braves are 2-for-37 including Hector Olivera’s 0-for-6 and Gordon Beckham’s 0-for-5.

— Your primary catcher, A.J. Pierzynski, ranking last in the NL in percentage of runners caught stealing at 0-for-6.

— Your hitters batting .149 (7-for-47) against lefties with one double and a .170 slugging percentage. Nick Markakis (2-for-8) has the Braves’ only extra-base hit (double) against a lefty.

— Markakis is 4-for-8 with runners in scoring position, but the rest of the team is batting .189 (7-for-37) with 15 strikeouts in those situations. No. 3-4 hitters Freddie Freeman and Adonis Garcia, plus Jace Peterson and Erick Aybar, are a combined 1-for-21 with RISP, with Freeman (1-for-6, four walks) accounting for the only hit among them in those situations.

As you can see, there are a variety of reasons why the Braves are 0-6. It’s been a group effort.

• Gio vs. Jhoulys: It’ll be Jhoulys Chacin comes up from Triple-A tonight to make his Braves debut with a start against Nats lefty Gio Gonzalez. It’s the first time this season the Braves needed a fifth starter, and this was the plan they laid out when they put together the opening-day roster, going with an extra reliever until now, when Chacin moves into the rotation.

Chacin was sharp in his only Triple-A start, now will try to help the Braves get their first win of the season and end an 11-game skid at Nationals Park, where they last won in 2014. The veteran right-hander is 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA in his past four starts against the Nationals, though he last faced them in 2013.

Ryan Zimmerman is 5-for-13 with two homers against Chacin, Stephen Drew is 6-for-17, and Bryce Harper hasn’t faced him.

The Braves had the upper hand on Gio Gonzalez for a long time, as evident by his his 4-8 record and 4.54 ERA in 13 starts against them – three more losses than he has against any other team.

However, Gonzalez was 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA and .159 opponents’ average in two starts against the Braves last season, with18 strikeouts and five walks in 13 innings. Both of those games were at Nationals Park, including Sept. 5 when he racked up 10 strikeouts in six scoreless innings.

Freddie Freeman is 9-for-29 with two homers against him and Jeff Francoeur is 10-for-25 with a homer. Fredi Gonzalez mentioned yesterday that he was leaning toward starting Drew Stubbs against the lefty instead of just-up-from-the-minors center-field prospect Mallex Smith.

But it’s worth noting that Stubbs is 0-for-11 with five strikeouts. So it wouldn’t surprise me if Smith’s back in the lineup tonight after getting five stitches to close a cut above his left eye from a base-stealing incident in the fourth inning of his major league debut Monday.

That, or they could try Francoeur in center after playing him there a few games in spring training.

• It’s the 33rd anniversary of the release of R.E.M.’s debut full-length album, the hugely influential and terrific-to-this-day Murmur, with the kudzu on the cover and the jangly, weird and wonderful songs inside that mentioned things like two-headed cows and Radio Free Europe. Here’s one of the many splendid songs from that record.

“CATAPULT” by R.E.M.

R.E.M.

R.E.M.

ooooh, we were little boys
ooooh, we were little girls

It’s nine o’clock
don’t try to turn it off
covered in a hole, opie mouth, question

A question:
Did we miss anything?
Did we miss anything?
Did we miss anything?
Did we miss anything?

Catapult (catapult)
Catapult
Catapult (catapult)
Catapult

ooooo, we were little boys
ooooo, we were little girls

It’s nine o’clock
don’t try to turn it off
covered in a hole, opie mouth

We in step, in hand,
your mother remembers this.
Hear the howl of the rope,

A question:
Did we miss anything?
Did we miss anything?
Did we miss anything?
Did we miss anything?

Catapult (catapult)
Catapult
Catapult (catapult)
Catapult

March could be darker.
March could be darker.

Catapult (catapult)
Catapult
Catapult (catapult)
Catapult

Ooooo, we were little boys.
Ooooo, we were little girls.

It’s nine o’clock,
don’t try to turn it off.
Cowered in a hole, opie mouth.

We in step, in hand,
your mother remembers this.
Hear the howl of the rope,

A question:
Did we miss anything?
Did we miss anything?
Did we miss anything?
Did we miss anything?

Catapult (catapult)
Catapult
Catapult (catapult)
Catapult


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