After a promising start to the four-game series with the Padres, Atlanta squandered plenty of scoring opportunities and fell back to Earth with three straight losses to the Friars over the weekend.
The Braves in that three game stretch were an astonishing/abysmal/insane/your adjective here 3-26 with runners in scoring position. The top of the lineup mostly did its job, while the back half of the lineup almost disappeared.
I don't want to use the phrase "get-right" to describe the upcoming series with Cincinnati in Atlanta, but it's hard not see this as a huge opportunity for the Braves to pull themselves out of this funk and keep themselves ahead in the NL East.
What to watch for in Monday's game
Big Bryce's 2023 home debut
Dylan Dodd has delivered mixed results through two starts, and Jared Shuster has been allergic to the first inning. Bryce Elder has been the bright light after one start this year with the Braves, shutting out a deep Cardinals lineup last week over six innings with only two hits allowed.
If you go look at Elder's outings in 2022, he had a tendency to pitch against the Nationals and Marlins more than anyone else, and did the best against them. He went deeper into those seven games against Washington and Miami than any other team he faced in 2022, and struck out more batters as well.
Elder struggled this Spring which led to his return to Triple-A, but with plenty of questions surrounding the back half of Atlanta's current rotation, he very well could extend his stay in the Braves rotation with a strong performance Monday against an average Reds offense.
Where art thou, Marcell and Eddie?
Now, it's starting to became very obvious neither should consider their starting jobs safe.
Ozuna has been flat-out unplayable offensively, opening the year 2-27 with 10 strikeouts at the plate. He's hit two home runs, but that's small feat alongside a very large drop in performance.
Rosario isn't too far ahead of him, starting 4-25 with seven strikeouts. A very disappointing start after he showed some flashes of his past self last September post-eye surgery, and after his return from the World Baseball Classic this Spring.
For the Braves to have success, if not these two, someone in the bottom of the lineup needs to step up to score those guys at the top. Orlando Arcia has looked very good to open 2023, and Sam Hilliard has shown some promise in limited work.
Sean's time to shine?
Sean Murphy, of course, should be included in Braves struggling to get off the ground in 2023. He went hitless in the three losses to San Diego, but did walk five times to get on base.
Now with Travis d'Arnaud hitting the IL with a concussion, the spotlight on Murphy has got so much bigger. 10 games in with a batting average still below .200, this series against Cincinnati is the perfect opportunity to course-correct and give this offense a little jump.
Chadwick Tromp is up from Gwinnett to give Murphy some rest when he needs it, but Murphy is going to shoulder a lot of work over the next week or so with d'Arnaud out. The question is: what can he do in that time?
Unfamiliar territory on the mound
Graham Ashcraft will take the ball in game one for Cincinnati on Monday night, and nobody on the Braves roster has ever faced Ashcraft in a regular season game.
He only debuted last year so the sample size of opponents he's faced is minimal, but anytime you've never seen a pitcher in person, there's some adjusting to be had.
Ashcraft was lights out against the Pirates in his 2023 debut last week, throwing seven innings of one-run ball with six strikeouts. A different challenge with this Braves lineup lays ahead.