On Monday, the Braves begin their first West Coast road trip of the 2018 season. Perhaps those words don’t fill you with trepidation. After all, the Braves just took three of four from the preseason designees for division champion, have a 1.5-game lead in the NL East, and the sixth-best record in baseball. But, spanning the continent has rarely resulted in good outcomes for the Braves.
There are two main issues, as I see them, with the Braves and these trips to places abutting the Pacific Ocean. First is the more obvious: the Braves just haven’t played particularly well while there. Maybe it’s the distance, maybe it’s the lack of humidity, maybe it’s some kind of curse put upon them by a San Diego witch doctor. Who knows. Second is the more annoying: these games aren’t always on weekend nights, and they start very, very late. 10:00 pm ET starts are commensurate with when most games starting in the Eastern time zone end. With 2018’s particular brand of cardiac kids baseball, the entire situation is rendered worse. Just because the Braves don’t do anything by the time you need to get to bed to get five hours of sleep before work the next morning doesn’t mean they won’t win the game in dramatic fashion anyway.
Anyway, this week’s trip has the Braves visiting the Padres and the Dodgers. They’ll make another trip in early September to play the Diamondbacks and Giants. That’s relatively not that bad, compared to some trip schedules in the past. So let’s remember how those past trips went.
The rebuild years
In terms of performance, these years don’t really “count.” Still, traveling out West was a horrorshow for these teams.
- May 26-June 4: 4-5 trip, 2-4 against West Coast teams. 1-2 against Giants, 1-2 against Angels, 2-1 against Reds. This was not a fun trip. On May 30, the Braves had one of their worst defensive innings, possibly ever, allowing nine runs thanks to three errors, two fielder’s choices on which no runs were recorded, and an inability to field a bunt single. Also a three-run homer by Albert Pujols off Bartolo Colon which gave the Angels the immediate lead after the Braves took a 2-0 lead earlier in the game. The Braves also lost the rubber game of the series on an Eric Young Jr. tie-breaking homer off of Arodys Vizcaino, which is just wacky.
- June 27-July 2: 4-2 trip. 1-2 against Padres, three-game sweep of Athletics. This was really the only ultimately successful West Coast trip the Braves have taken in a while. The highlight was Mike Foltynewicz taking a no-hitter into the ninth in Oakland. On the trip’s last game, the Braves had to score in two consecutive extra innings (the 11th and 12th) to push them above .500 for the trip.
- July 20-July 31: 3-8 trip. 3-5 against West Coast teams. 2-2 against Dodgers, 1-2 against Diamondbacks, swept in four games by Phillies. While it was the Philadelphia portion of this trip that was awful, the West Coast portion wasn’t great either. The Braves actually won the first two games of this trip but suffered a walkoff loss in Los Angeles and then got clobbered in two of their three games (20 runs combined) against Arizona. They were then hungover enough to lose four straight to the Phillies, including two consecutive walkoff wins against Rex Brothers.
- Total 2017 record: 11-15; 9-11 against West Coast teams.
- June 3-June 8: 1-5 trip. 0-3 against Dodgers, 1-2 against Padres. The Braves lost the first five games of this trip before finally coming away with a victory. They managed just 17 runs in the six games.
- August 22-August 27: 3-4 trip. 2-2 against Diamondbacks, 1-2 against Giants. Both losses to the Diamondbacks came via walkoff; the Braves were clobbered (7-0, 13-4) in their two losses to the Giants.
- Total 2016 record: 4-9.
- May 25-June 3: 4-6 trip. 1-2 against Dodgers, 2-2 against Giants, 1-2 against Diamondbacks. The Braves actually managed a three-game winning streak on this trip where they scored 23 runs in three games, but lost all the other games but one, including getting shut out twice and losing a game to the recently-traded Alex Wood. They jumped out to large leads via five-run innings in each of the last two games on the trip and then bled those leads away, losing by one run in each game.
- August 17-August 23: 0-7 trip. Swept by Padres in three, swept by Cubs in four.
- Total 2015 record: 4-13; 4-9 against West Coast teams.
The contention years
- May 12-May 18: 2-4 trip. 1-2 against Giants, 1-2 against Cardinals.
- June 6-June 12: 3-4 trip. 1-2 against Diamondbacks, 2-2 against Rockies. Not including this in my tally since technically they didn’t go to the West Coast itself.
- July 29-August 6: 0-8 trip. Three-game sweep by Dodgers, three-game sweep by Padres, two-game sweep by Mariners. This was probably the most infamous trip. The Braves suffered three walkoff losses in eight games. This trip was the beginning of their slide out of the playoffs — they started it half a game back in the division and ended it four games back and just two games over .500. They also fell well behind in the Wild Card race after this trip, going from having the best record aside from division leaders to being only the NL’s seventh-best team by the end.
- Total 2014 record: 2-12, 1-9 against West Coast teams.
- May 6-May 15: 4-6; 2-5 against West Coast teams. 2-1 against Reds, 1-3 against Giants, 2-1 against Diamondbacks. The thing to remember is that the Braves won 96 games in 2013, yet couldn’t win series against two NL West teams that finished a combined 12 games under .500.
- June 6-June 12: 2-5. 2-2 against Dodgers, 0-3 against Padres. Once again, the good Braves were victimized by a not-good Padres team.
- Total 2013 record: 6-11, 4-10 against West Coast teams.
- April 19-April 25: 5-2. 3-1 against Diamondbacks, 2-1 against Dodgers. Yes, this is how far back you have to go to find a successful trip against NL West opponents. The Braves clobbered the Diamondbacks (10-2, 9-1) in the first two games of the trip, and then edged the Dodgers (4-3, 4-2) in the last two games.
- August 20-August 29: 4-6; 3-4 against West Coast teams. 1-2 against Nationals, 2-2 against Giants, 1-2 against Padres. Those Padres again! Urgh.
- Total 2012 record: 9-8 (a winning record!); 8-6 against West Coast teams.
- April 18-April 27: 6-4. 1-3 against the Dodgers, 3-0 against the Giants, 2-1 against the Padres. Finally, a win against the Padres in San Diego. Two of the four losses were walkoffs.
- May 18-May 25: 3-4; 1-4 against West Coast teams. 0-2 against the Diamondbacks, 1-3 against the Angels, 2-0 against the Pirates.
- June 24-June 29: 4-2. 1-2 against Padres, 3-0 against Mariners. Why did the Braves visit the Padres twice this year? Well, they did, and lost the series to them, but at least it was a successful trip overall.
- Total 2011 record: 13-10; 11-10 against West Coast teams.
- April 9-April 15: 3-3. 1-2 against Giants, 2-1 against Padres. Hey, another Padres series victory.
- June 3-June 13: 6-5; 4-4 against West Coast teams. 2-2 against Dodgers, 2-2 against Diamondbacks, 2-1 against Twins.
- Total 2010 record: 9-8; 7-7 against West Coast teams.
So, there you have it. These trips have been miserable since the conclusion of the 2012 season, and I’m not just talking about sleep deprivation. Hopefully this year shows a turnaround in this regard. But even if it doesn’t, don’t worry — the Braves have had good seasons even while scuffling against these teams, like 2010 and 2013.
After this six-game trip, the Braves will head to Phoenix and San Francisco in early September, which will be their penultimate road trip of the year. (The Braves also end the 2018 regular season on the road.)