What We Learned About the Atlanta Braves from the Divisional Round
Once again, the Atlanta Braves finished their season with a disappointing loss in the playoffs.
With the Braves on the verge of forcing a Game 5 at Turner Field, Juan Uribe provided the decisive blow with the game-winning two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning of Game 4.
Where do the Braves go from here? How do they take the next step to advance in the postseason?
General manager Frank Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez will have some sorting out to do this offseason to answer those questions.
Here's a look at a few things we learned about the Braves in their series loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
1. Lack of Pitching Experience Proves Costly
One of the question marks entering this season and the postseason was the lack of experience on the starting rotation.
Unfortunately, it played a role in the Braves defeat against the Dodgers.
Game 1 starter Kris Medlen gave no chance for the Braves to beat ace Clayton Kershaw. The right-hander allowed nine hits and five earned runs in just four innings of work.
The Braves gave Julio Teheran an early lead in a pivotal Game 3 only to watch him give up six earned runs in 2.2 innings.
Mike Minor battled in Game 2 and gave the Braves a great outing. However, it was obvious he wasn't as sharp as the regular season in scattering eight hits.
The Braves top three pitchers combined for 6.1 innings of playoff experience entering the series and the three combined to allow 12 runs in 13 innings in the series.
That gave the Braves little chance to win the series.
2. Bullpen Injuries Finally Caught Up
Despite the poor starting pitching, the Braves were in position to force a deciding game with a lead in the seventh inning.
You guys know what happened next.
Despite the season-ending injuries to Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty, the Braves still managed to lead the National League with a 2.46 bullpen ERA in the regular season.
However, the injuries to those two left-handers as well as Jordan Walden recovering from his groin injury finally caught up to the Braves.
The bullpen was simply not the same when Walden's eight inning role was vacated.
David Carpenter filled in valiantly but couldn't get the job done when it mattered most.
Still, there is reason for optimism in the Braves bullpen moving forward with some guys getting healthy.
3. Still No Ace
The lack of a true No. 1 starter has seemingly been an issue for the Braves for years.
And it always seems to haunt the team in the postseason.
The Braves simply don't have an obvious ace to lead them in a postseason series.
Undoubtedly the injury to Tim Hudson really hurt the Braves as he was pitching like the Hudson of old at the time.
However, he is aging and will be a free agent in the offseason, so his future with the team is cloudy.
Perhaps Teheran could grow into a No. 1 after posting a 3.20 ERA, 14 wins and 170 strikeouts in his first full season as a 22-year-old.
The Braves sure hope so because the market for a top starter is thin and could be the missing piece to put them over the top.
4. No Long Ball No Win
The Braves were at their best in 2013 when they were hitting the long ball.
They finished the regular season with 181, which was good enough to lead the National League.
Unfortunately for the Braves it didn't translate into the postseason, and the Dodgers beat them at their own game.
The Dodgers hit seven in the series while the Braves managed just one, and that was a meaningless two-run home run in the ninth of a blowout Game 3 Dodgers' win.
In the deciding Game 4 win, it was the Dodgers who belted three home runs to the Braves' zero.
The Braves simply didn't hit for enough power to follow their formula of success for the entire 2013 season.
5. Gattis Thrives in Postseason
Some players seem to elevate their play for the biggest moments, and it looks like Evan Gattis will be one of those players.
Gattis showed during the season he had a knack for producing a key hit in critical times with four pinch-hit home runs in 10 at-bats as well as a 1.072 OPS in late and close situations.
He followed that up by hitting .357 this postseason with a key two-out RBI single to give the Braves a lead in the important Game 3.
With Brian McCann likely gone for next season, the catcher position will be Gattis's to lose.
Braves fans should feel fortunate to have Gattis waiting in the wings as he provides plenty of pop at the plate as well as coming through in clutch situations.
All statistics according to Baseball-Reference.
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