MILWAUKEE -- It was easier to explain the pitching of the Atlanta Braves than the hitting of the Atlanta Braves.
The pitching is very good, period. The hitting, recently in Milwaukee, ran from not there, to confounding, to, by Sunday, OK again.
Things happen in baseball that are, despite cutting-edge metrics, beyond the scope of rational explanation. Or, as Fredi Gonzalez, manager of the Braves, put it on Sunday:
"I think the more you try to explain it, the more stupid you sound."
Fredi Gonzalez said that. I didn't say that, even though I thought he was right. In any case, this saga has a happy Atlanta ending, a 7-4 victory over the Brewers on Sunday.
Before that, the Braves' possessed an inexplicable inability to score runs against the Brewers at Miller Park. The Braves had lost eight straight to the Brewers in Milwaukee going into Sunday and had scored a total of nine runs along the way.
Plus, the Braves had been shut out during the first two games of this three-game series. The Brewers had come into this series last in the National League in team earned run average. These two shutouts had vaulted them to 14th in that category.
These results did not figure. The Braves are second in the NL in home runs, and Miller Park is a hitter-friendly facility, particularly when summer finally comes to Wisconsin, as it now has, and the retractable roof is open.
Put all of these factors together and the Braves are supposed to score runs here, against this team, in this park, quite a bit. Instead, no runs, nada, nothing, zilch, over two games.
"You look at these numbers, and it's crazier," Gonzalez said. "You know how many runs we've scored here? Nine in eight games. You hear these numbers and the more you hear them you go like, 'ugh.'
"It goes to the old adage that it's when you play a club. The Mets go play the Yankees in the Subway Series and they beat them four times. And then they go to Miami, and they played [the Marlins three] times and they got swept. I mean, go figure this game out."
That's part of the beauty of baseball. Events within the game sometimes defy logical explanation. Sunday's game was much easier to explain, for the Braves anyway, after catcher Brian McCann changed the landscape with a grand slam in the first inning.
"Mack's homer put everybody at ease," second baseman Dan Uggla said. "We went back to doing what we needed to do."
Braves starter Paul Maholm gave up four runs in the fifth, but the Atlanta bullpen put up zeros the rest of the way, so that was no problem. Maholm has been a consistent performer for the Braves. In this one, he was more like the beneficiary.
"Somebody said, 'You get all the runs,'" Maholm said with a smile. "I think it was Huddy [Tim Hudson]."
This brings us to the more orderly side, or at least more understandable side of the Braves' operation, the pitching. After Sunday's game, the Braves ranked second in the National League -- and second in the Major Leagues, for that matter -- in team ERA at 3.21.
Even while the offense struggled at Miller Park, the Braves had pitched well enough to sweep the series, giving up only two runs in each of the losses.
The Braves have been in first place in the NL East since April 5, Over time, the consistency of their pitching has kept them in games and, ultimately, in first place.
"I think I had the same conversation last year, maybe here," Gonzalez said. "You can live with your offense not hitting on all cylinders, but you better be able to pitch, every single day, day in, day out. If it was the other way around, I would be really, really, really concerned. I mean, if you're scoring 10 runs and giving up 11 every night, that would be concerning.
"If your pitching is keeping you in the games and your offense is not firing, you can live with that kind of stuff. You can score a run, you can run into a couple of runs, but yeah, you can live with that kind of stuff."
Comprehensive explanations for why the Braves had not been scoring runs in Milwaukee were missing. But when the Braves' offense got back in gear on Sunday, the pitching still made sense and victory was a completely natural result.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less