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AP photo by Ben Margot / Arizona Diamondbacks baserunner Nick Ahmed signals he is safe after being tagged out on an attempted steal of second base by Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson in the fourth inning of Sunday's first game in Atlanta. The Braves were swept in the doubleheader, losing 5-0 and 7-0 and totaling one hit.

Sunday may go down as the most offensively inept day in Atlanta Braves history. In two seven-inning games, the Braves scored zero runs and collected one total hit in 5-0 and 7-0 losses to the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks.

In fact, according to Elias Sports, it's the first time in major league history that a team has been held to but one hit in a doubleheader, though it should be noted that pre-coronavirus doubleheaders were two nine-inning games rather than two seven-inning affairs.

Yet if citizens of Braves Nation are looking for signs of panic, don't expect reigning National League MVP Freddie Freeman to provide them.

"April 25th wasn't the Atlanta Braves' day," said the Atlanta first baseman, who collected the Braves' lone hit of the afternoon in the opener before Arizona's Madison Bumgarner held Atlanta hitless in the second game. "I wouldn't say I'm concerned about anything. We still have 141 games to go."

This is not to say there isn't growing concern about these Braves' offensive numbers, Freeman included, after Atlanta's 12th loss of the season against nine wins as the Chicago Cubs arrive to begin a four-game series Monday night in the Big Peach.

Check the batting averages of the everyday Braves, and it's almost impossible to believe this is basically the same squad that trailed only the World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers among NL teams in runs scored per game (5.80 to L.A.'s 5.82) and only the New York Mets in team batting average (.268 to the Mets' .272) last year.

Instead, after 21 games this season, Atlanta is batting a collective .215 and has only one everyday player above .300, with outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. hitting .371. Of the other seven starting position players, four are below .200 and Freeman is at but .205.

Beyond that, Atlanta has now given up 12 more runs than it has scored, though that should probably come with an asterisk, since seven NL teams have totaled fewer runs than the Braves' 91 this year. Of course, only two NL teams — the Cincinnati Reds and Arizona — have given up more runs than the Braves.

So what gives? Should Atlanta fans start being concerned before the calendar has reached May? Will the eventual return of starting pitchers Max Fried and Mike Soroka (maybe) take pressure off the bats to score more runs in order to offset current shortcomings in pitching?

Perhaps pointing to the dramatic decline in batting average from a year ago, Braves television analyst and former Atlanta outfielder Jeff Francoeur said Sunday: "We know these guys like to swing for the fences, but maybe they need to focus on stringing four hits together (in an inning) and scoring two runs. We saw them do that a lot last year. That's kind of been lacking this year."

Returning to the Freeman argument that it's too early to worry, Braves skipper Brian Snitker shrugged off Sunday's historically bad hitting performance as "Just one of those days. I can't explain it. Just got to keep fighting through it. Just like we've done the entire year."

And maybe he's right. It is still April, after all. There have been numerous injuries on the pitching side to both starters and relievers. The everyday lineup is surely too good to bat this badly forever.

Television analyst and former Braves pitcher Paul Byrd even said that it wouldn't surprise him if the Braves got hot and won "10 or 11 in a row, kind of like what Oakland's been doing." (This was before the Baltimore Orioles snapped the Athletics' 13-game winning streak on Sunday.)

It's possible. It's also possible that even if the hitting dramatically improves, this injury-maligned pitching staff will never become healthy enough to make a serious run at a fourth straight NL East Division title or even a wild-card berth for the playoffs.

Still, while Sunday may have been but one day, even if it was two defeats, the magic that's so often been on display the past two seasons has yet to surface this spring. Chemistry is a fragile thing, tough to find but easy to lose, and right now the Braves seem to still be searching for it.

"We just need a hit," Freeman said. "We'll try again tomorrow."

Sometimes it's that simple. Just get a hit or two or four, as Francoeur suggested, grab a few runs and a losing skid becomes a winning streak.

But as Braves TV analyst and former Atlanta reliever Peter Moylan was wrapping up his postgame thoughts Sunday, he seemed to hint that such a turnaround needed to begin soon as he turned his talk to general manager Alex Anthopoulos.

"Alex is not going to let this go on much longer," Moylan said. "He's a guy who likes to make moves."

Maybe Moylan knows something and maybe he doesn't, but as April races toward May, it's also highly likely that Anthopoulos is more concerned than Freeman about the team's performances to date. And if he is, the current Braves might need to become concerned over whether they'll still be Braves after the July 30 trade deadline if these disappointing results continue.

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Mark Wiedmer

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @TFPWeeds.

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