Braves bid to wake up bats in opener vs. Athletics

May 31, 2024, 4:24 AM | Updated: 9:09 am

JP Sears #38 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Houston Astros in the top of the first in...

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - MAY 25: JP Sears #38 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Houston Astros in the top of the first inning on May 25, 2024 at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

The Atlanta Braves will try to solve their recent offensive woes when they open a three-game series against the visiting Oakland Athletics on Friday night.

This will be the first meeting between the teams this season. The Athletics won two of three against the Braves in 2023.

Oakland fell to 6-18 in its last 24 games after dropping a 6-5 decision in 12 innings to the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday. Atlanta, in turn, lost for the fifth time in seven outings with a 3-1 setback to the Washington Nationals.

The Braves are averaging only three runs over their last six games and have been held to two runs or less four times during that stretch.

“I wish I knew what it was and I’d tell them and we’d correct it,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “We’re going to do like last year and keep grinding. It’s not an easy thing to get going. It’s a hard thing to do.”

The Braves matched a major league record for home runs last year but have gone deep just 57 times this season. Atlanta has been homerless in 19 games, more than it had in the entire 2013 season. The Braves are 7-12 when not hitting a home run.

The pitching matchups in the series opener will feature Atlanta right-hander Reynaldo Lopez (2-2, 1.75 ERA) against Oakland left-hander J.P. Sears (4-3, 3.88).

Lopez originally was scheduled to start on Thursday against Washington, but the Braves opted to give him an extra day of rest. Atlanta has monitored his innings while he makes the transition from the bullpen to the rotation.

Lopez will make his 10th start of the season and is seeking his first win since April 16. He lost his most recent start on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Pirates after working 4 2/3 innings and giving up three runs (two earned) on five hits, one walk and three strikeouts. It was his shortest outing of the year.

In his career, Lopez has faced Oakland seven times, five as a starter, going 2-2 with an 0.89 ERA. He pitched one scoreless relief appearance against the Athletics last year. His most recent starts against the A’s came in 2021 when he allowed three runs, one earned, in 10 innings and went 1-1 with an 0.90 ERA.

Sears will make his 12th start of the season. In his most recent outing, on Saturday against Houston, he picked up the win after allowing one unearned run on two hits in six innings of the A’s 3-1 victory.

“A big part of the season is just trying to be available as much as I can,” Sears said.

Sears has been a stalwart for the Oakland pitching staff, which has suffered its share of injuries of late.

“Through April we had all five guys in the rotation and in May we’ve lost four of five,” Oakland manager Mark Kotsay said. “So, for J.P., testament to his resiliency. He’s coming off a year where he made all 32 starts, and I know he’s determined to do that again. That’s his mindset.”

Sears faced the Braves once in 2023 and did not receive a decision after allowing one run in six innings.

Upcoming schedule for the Oakland Athletics

  • Friday, May 31st-Sunday, June 2nd – @ Atlanta Braves
  • Tuesday, June 4th-Thursday, June 6th – vs. Seattle Mariners
  • Friday, June 7th-Sunday, June 9th – vs. Toronto Blue Jays
  • Monday, June 10th-Wednesday, June 12th – @ San Diego Padres
  • Thursday, June 13th-Sunday, June 16th – @ Minnesota Twins

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