Alright, calm down, ladies. They aren’t running in the buff through the streets of downtown Atlanta. That’s just unhygienic. But if you ask real nice, maybe they’ll put out a Chippendale’s calendar to raise money for their upcoming road trip.
No, Atlanta Braves fans, we’re talking about the bad kind of streaking. The roller coaster. The bungee jump. The hot and sour soup. Wait, no that’s lunch. Have you ever showered while a bus full of tourists go potty downstairs? Hot, cold, hot, cold. Since leaping out in front of all of baseball in the first two weeks of the season, the Braves have settled into a crooked groove.
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It shouldn’t be too surprising, as even when they were playing hot in the beginning, they weren’t firing on all cylinders. The pitching was a little off. Half the batters were cold to start. The offseason’s big acquisition, B.J. Upton, is still batting a soul crushing .157. Dan Uggla slogged through 25 games batting under .200 and only recently seems to be coming out of his three-year slump. Maybe his trip down memory lane, back to 2006, has him feeling nostalgic enough to bat like it was his first year.
It seems that the Braves want to put me through the five stages of grief every game they play. It looks something like this:
Denial: B.J. Upton (He
can’t won’t hit like this all season.)
Anger: Dan Uggla (If you strike out with the bases loaded one more time, I swear I’ll …)
Bargaining: Brian McCann (If McCann comes back healthy, I’ll never eat another hot dog.)
Depression: Dan Uggla (I guess he’ll never hit another ball the rest of his career.)
I guess I haven’t gotten to that last one yet. I’ll keep you posted.
As I said in my last post, though, maintaining at least a two-game lead over your division opponents while you struggle as a team isn’t so bad. It could be a lot worse. And it’s certainly not like there haven’t been a whole slew of things to be positive about during that span. Rookie Evan Gattis has apparently descended from Valhalla to smash his way, Thor-like, through the MLB with a bat hewn from Yggdrasil. Andrelton Simmons is actively trying to become Chipper Jones’ doppelganger at the plate and seems to be having quite a bit of success with it. The platoon at 3rd base of Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson means that you can flip a coin to see who plays and no matter which way it falls, you’re in good hands. And did I mention Evan Gattis?
There are also concerns for this team. Kris Medlen, after pulling a Brian O’Conner through the second half of the season last year, has only won one game this season. Which isn’t to say he hasn’t pitched
well pretty good – his ERA is up to 3.25 after getting stomped in Detroit, but he’s certainly pitched well enough to keep the team in the game almost every time out. Maybe his superstar status after last year led the Braves to think they don’t have to score any runs when he pitches, yet somehow they’ll still win. Whatever it is, his command hasn’t quite been the same, although he’s shown some signs of getting it back.
Since the awful run in Detroit, the Braves have really picked up momentum, though dropping a game by way of back-to-back homeruns makes it feel like a three game losing streak. But taking two out of three from the Cincinnati Reds at home hasn’t been easy for any other team this season. Actually, it’s been impossible, as they were undefeated at Great American Ballpark. Same with the Colorado Rockies at that ski lodge they call Coors Field.
All in all, the Braves are playing well – eight games over .500, with a run differential of 40 so far. They’ve only dropped two of the eleven series they’ve played, tying another two.
But while we’re here, let’s talk about game one of the series against the San Francisco Giants, the reigning world champs. The Giants are a small ball team, even though there’s a lot pop in their lineup. They don’t strike out much; 224 times total, good for second to last in the NL. However, they also have a run differential of 0. That’s right. Zero. They’ve allowed as many runs as they’ve scored and their collective ERA sits at 3.91. Only two of their starters are under an ERA of 3.00 currently.
Regardless, they’re still tied for first place in the hotly contested NL West and are a potent lineup to face. But the Braves were better in game one. More importantly, some key factors began to click into place. Julio Teheran, while he didn’t pitch a gem, per say, did manage to hold the Giants to three runs and didn’t walk anyone. He also recovered neatly from one bad inning and Buster Posey‘s great at-bat that ended with a 2-run shot. Uggla’s streak continued, as he went 1-3 with 2 walks and 2 runs scored. McCann finally came back and hit his first dinger of the year, finishing with 3 RBI. And Justin Upton and Jordan Schafer added two more triples to the team total – in one inning!
The Braves seemed calmer at the plate, which is great, particularly when trying to eat a big meal. The lineup produced, battling through Ryan Vogelsong‘s dominant first inning. They took control of the game and backed Teheran throughout, before handing it over to Eric O’Flaherty and Kimbrel, who both needed a bounce-back game. Even B.J. Upton got a hit and an RBI for the first time in 11 games, which every Braves fan will hope is a sign of things to come.
If this Atlanta Braves team begins to click and fire on all eight, the NL should be worried. Very worried. And Thursday’s game looks like it could be the spark.