Lack of power problematic for Braves

Lack of power problematic for Braves

ATLANTA -- The Braves have accounted for Ender Inciarte's absence by moving Nick Markakis to the leadoff spot, and they have attempted to help Freddie Freeman get out of his funk by temporarily moving him down to the lineup's sixth spot.

Still, while these changes might provide the lineup better flow, they do not compensate for the lack of power potential possessed by the Braves, who have been burdened by this glaring weakness throughout a season that became even more frustrating during Monday night's 1-0 loss to the Red Sox at Turner Field.

"It's hard to pinpoint something," Freeman said. "It seems like we've been getting double-digit hits every game. We just haven't been getting those hits to turn into runs. As long as we keep hitting, I think things will start to change here. It is a little more magnified since we got off to this start."

During their six-game losing streak, which has dropped Atlanta's record to 4-15, the Braves have compiled 11 runs, despite recording a double-digit hit total in four of those games. They have recorded 54 hits, but each of the seven that have been of the extra-base variety have been doubles.

Before being limited to four hits by Rick Porcello and three Red Sox relievers on Monday, the Braves had produced a .291 batting average over a five-game span, which featured opposing starters such as Clayton Kershaw, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom. But station-to-station baseball did not prove effective enough against these top-flight hurlers.

The Braves have attempted to make changes and deal with the struggles Mallex Smith has experienced while providing indication he needs more time at the Triple-A level. Daniel Castro has started the past two games at shortstop in place of Erick Aybar, whose defensive shortcomings have coincided with him batting .134 through his first 18 games as the departed Andrelton Simmons' replacement.

When Freeman assumed the sixth spot in Monday's order, it marked the first time since July 1, 2012, that he was positioned below the fifth spot in the batting order. The first baseman responded with a pair of singles, including one on a bunt that was placed to beat a shift. This two-hit performance raised the former All-Star's batting average to .200 and extended his homerless streak to 77 plate appearances, dating back to Opening Day when hit a first-inning homer off Max Scherzer.

The Braves homered twice through this season's first 13 plate appearances, but they've gone homerless over their past 556 plate appearances dating back to April 10.

Given that Freeman stands as the only legitimate home run threat in Atlanta's lineup, it's not necessarily surprising that the Braves have hit the fewest homers through this season's first three weeks. But this meager total, combined with an alarming .283 team slugging percentage through 19 games, makes it easier to understand why Atlanta has scored the fewest runs (61) in the National League.

"As long we keep grinding, keep working and keep getting double-digit hits, I think the runs will start coming," Freeman said.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.