The Atlanta Braves finished a tough road trip with a disappointing 5-3 loss on Wednesday to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Despite finishing the road trip 4-6, the Braves still hold a slight lead over the Washington Nationals in the National League East.
Although they lost on Wednesday, they displayed elements of what needs to happen in order to maintain that lead over the course of the MLB season.
That is getting timely production from cleanup hitter Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann.
The Diamondbacks gave a blueprint of how teams will pitch MLB’s home run leader, Justin Upton. They saw first hand what he could do on Monday as he went 4-for-5 with a home run to straight away center field. It became clear in the next two game that the Diamondbacks would not let Upton beat them as they walked him four times.
The treatment will continue from opponents, which is where Freeman and McCann come in. They will need to deliver with runners on, and will receive ample opportunities to do so.
On Wednesday, half of the duo produced. Freeman drove in all three runs with a bases loaded walk in the third and two-run double in the fifth. Unfortunately for the Braves, McCann followed Freeman with a fly out and pop up to fail to extend the lead.
If McCann, who left seven on base, gets a hit in either at-bat, the Braves likely win that game … and they didn’t even hit a home run.
The Braves can be a more consistent offense but will need Freeman and McCann to be key contributors. Dan Uggla, Evan Gattis and B.J. Upton are more streaky hitters who will get the big hit at times but fail miserably in others. The left-handers will be the two getting most of the run-producing opportunities, hitting behind Justin Upton and are more reliable hitters.
Getting key hits from Freeman and McCann will lead to a more consistent offense and more wins. The formula is simple. Executing that plan will prove to be more difficult.