Remember when the Braves were on a five-game win streak and had opened SunTrust Park with four consecutive victories? Well, the Washington Nationals decided to bring the Braves crashing down to reality. Despite seven innings of good work from R.A. Dickey, the Nationals were able to just about edge the Braves and complete the three-game sweep.
Meanwhile, Matt Kemp made his return to the lineup last night. It wasn’t exactly a success, as he ended up going 0-4 on the evening. Meanwhile, in a bit of a surprise, Aaron Blair received a call-up to the big league squad and is apparently going to be used as a long reliever for the next few days. Welcome back!
Freddie Freeman appears to be picking up right where he left off last season, and he’s showing signs that his performance in 2016 was no flash in the pan. If that’s the case, then Freeman may have truly broached the elite class of sluggers in baseball. Dave Cameron of FanGraphs made the case for Freeman in a recent article.
For years, Votto was the natural comparison for Freeman, as both were liner-first 1Bs who were elite hitters despite not putting up huge home run totals. But the current version of Freeman looks a lot more like 2010 Votto than the more recent versions, when he launched a career-high 37 home runs and put up a 172 wRC+. That’s what you can do when you add top-shelf power to a lot of walks and an average-ish strikeout rate.
We shouldn’t expect Freeman to run a 172 wRC+ this year — that’s above even Trout’s career average — like Votto did in 2010, but the additional power Freeman has gained doesn’t look to be going away any time soon, and Freeman was a power spike away from being in the very top (non-Trout) tier of hitters in the game. With this kind of ability to do damage on contact, and enough strike zone control to keep his walks up and his strikeouts down, Freeman is putting himself in the conversation for best hitter in the National League.
Sometimes you just need a day off to sit back and reevaluate things, and that’s what the Braves handed to Dansby Swanson on Thursday night, as Dave O’Brien reported for the AJC. He did enter the game as a pinch runner at the end of the game, but that was all we saw of Swanson between the lines last night. He was replaced in the 2-spot in the lineup by Adonis Garcia, which may not have been the wisest decision imaginable.
tangential information on the importance of giving Dansby Swanson time to develop (or, alternately, what happens when he's not around) pic.twitter.com/3pl6syh7Hp— Zach Dillard (@Zach_Dillard) April 20, 2017
The Royals put on a truly impressive show of offensive ineptitude on Thursday evening. THey lost to the Rangers 1-0 after 13 innings, and this was despite the fact that they had the slight upper hand on Texas in this contest. The Rangers got a hit in the fifth inning, and didn’t get another one until the 13th, which is when they strung together two hits in order to walk it off. Our friends at Royals Review are understandably displeased with what happened.
The Royals, on the other hand, struck out 14 times, including three strikeouts each from the two hitters at the bottom of the lineup, Paulo Orlando and Raul Mondesi.
With the bullpen getting a workout, and Matt Strahm eligible to be recalled tomorrow, it seems likely the reliever will be called up and the team will go back to 13 pitchers. That would take away yet another bat when the offense is scuffling. But with the way these hitters are hitting, perhaps it wouldn’t hurt much at all. The Royals need to get their offense kick-started, because they cannot keep pitching like this all season.
Meanwhile further south in Texas, the Astros and Angels got into a legitimate pitcher’s duel instead of the slapfight that happened later on in Arlington. In this case, Lance McCullers Jr. and the Astros got the best of Matt Shoemaker and the Angels as they eventually won 2-1. Houston is now 11-5, which only puts them behind the Orioles for the best record in baseball in these early stages.