Back Where They Belong: Atlanta Enters Critical Weekend Series vs. Philadelphia Clinging to Division Lead

Coming into the season, everybody expected the Philadelphia Phillies to be a thorn in the NL East’s side. As people were anticipating them running away with the title in 2019. For most of the first few months of the season, the preseason expectations were right. Philadelphia seemed to be throwing around every team they played like rag dolls. Atlanta has spent much of this season as a mainstay in the second place slot in the division standings. In recent weeks however, the roles seemed to have been flipped as the Phillies are on a one game losing streak. Philadelphia is also 5-5 in their last 10 contests while the Braves have claimed the top spot in division standings after winning seven straight games and eight out of their last 10 games. This weekend’s three-game series at SunTrust Park in Atlanta could very well, set the tone for the remainder of the season. I know, it’s only June 14 but with things shaping up the way that they have been, it could see a two-team race between Atlanta and Philadelphia for the 2019 pennant. In my opinion, the other three teams have a long way to go. Especially the Miami Marlins who have gotten off to a horrid (24-42) start. This series is one to watch for sure. First pitch is at 7:20pm ET Philadelphia hands the ball to Nick Pivetta while Atlanta calls on Max Fried.

Atlanta Continues Recent Power Surge, Defeat Pirates In Rain-Shortened Game

Tuesday, June 11, 2019, is a date that will forever be etched into the Braves history books. The Pittsburgh Pirates (30-36) got the game’s first two runs courtesy of a Josh Bell two-RBI single to center field but that was all that they would be able to muster in the top of the first inning. In the bottom of the second inning, Atlanta found the scoreboard in a big way. As they had two pairs of back-to-back homers within a span of five batters. As Josh Donaldson and Nick Markakis went deep, Austin Riley struck out and then Brian McCann and Ozzie Albies went back-to-back. According to Braves beat writer, Mark Bowman, last night marked the first time the Braves hit four homers in an inning since May 28, 2003. Rafael Furcal, Mark DeRosa and Gary Sheffield began the first inning with back-to-back-to-back homers. Javy Lopez added a two-out shot off the Reds’ Joey Hamilton.

It was also the first time since the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966 that the Braves had two pairs of back-to-back homers in the same inning from four out of five batters since June 8,1965 when Joe Torre, Felipe Alou, Hank Aaron and Gene Oliver accomplished the same feat in the same five batter span in the 10th inning against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Needless to say, last night was one for the ages. Atlanta went on to win the game 7-5 and improve to (38-29) on the year. The Braves remain tied for first place in the National League East division with the Philadelphia Phillies. With last night’s win, Atlanta has now won five consecutive games. Brian McCann homered twice in last night’s win.

Picture source: Atlanta Braves Twitter.

Miami Didn’t Disappoint

For weeks leading up to the trip to Miami, Florida, I was anxious and ready for a vacation. When Thursday came, I went to work and then went to Birmingham to spend the night before boarding a plane for my very first flight on Friday. We reached Miami at 12:16pm eastern time. I was hoping to pay a visit to Marlins Park, as the Braves just so happened to be in Miami for a three-game series the same weekend that I was in town. Friday night, my dad and I took an Uber 5.8 miles down the road to Marlins Park. The starting pitchers? None other than Mike Soroka and Jose Ureña. If you remember what Ureña did to Ronald Acuña Jr. last season, you know that it was only right that Acuña take him deep out of the park. That started what was a short night for the Miami pitcher. Giving up six runs in four innings. For Atlanta, Mike Soroka, arguably Atlanta’s hottest pitcher right now, tied a career-high in innings pitched, giving up three hits, one run, one earned run, yielding two walks and striking out six while lowering his season earned-run-average to 1.38. Atlanta wound up walloping the Marlins 7-1. On Saturday, we ate Cuban food. On Sunday, we took a walk down historic Ocean Drive and hit the club that night. Needless to say Miami didn’t disappoint at all.

Hello, Old Friend

Today seems like just another normal Tuesday to most of us. But for several former Atlanta Braves, it’s the day that their dreams became realities. 17 years ago today, in 2002, Atlanta selected current catcher Brian McCann and former Atlanta Braves right fielder current Atlanta Braves broadcaster Jeff Franceour in the first round of the 2002 MLB Amateur Draft. What makes this day even more special for McCann and Franceour is that at one point they were college roommates as both of the played baseball collegiately at Clemson University. Franceour spent six years with the Braves (2005-2009, 2016), three years with the Kansas City Royals (2011-2013), two years with the New York Mets (2009-2010), one year with the San Francisco Giants (2013), one year with the Philadelphia Phillies (2015), one year with the Texas Rangers (2010), one year with the San Diego Padres (2014) and one year with the Miami Marlins (2016) all in his 12-year career. McCann has spent time with Atlanta (10 years), New York Yankees (three years) and the Houston Astros (two years). Also on this day, 29 years ago in 1990 MLB Amateur Draft, the Atlanta Braves selected the man who some including myself still refer to as the “poster child” of the Atlanta franchise for 19 years from 1993 to 2012. Chipper spent his entire career donning an Atlanta uniform. It may seem like just another day to us, but to them it’s the day their lives changed forever.

Riley Strikes Again With Historic 8th-Inning Home Run

Thursday’s series finale in San Francisco was a marathon sparked by none other than rookie Austin Riley, in the 8th inning of the game, with the Giants leading 4-2 and Vanderbilt-product Dansby Swanson on first base, Austin Riley came to the plate with what seemed like a boulder on his shoulders and what did he do? He took Tony Watson’s 93 mile-per-hour fastball deep into the San Francisco afternoon. His fifth homer in his ninth career game, that traveled out of the ballpark at 104 mph off of his bat. He also secured the Braves’ win Thursday with a single that brought home the go-ahead runner. Riley has now homered in 18 of his last 27 at bats, going to back to his time at Gwinnett where he had 13 round trippers. He is scorching hot. The 8th-inning shot put him in the history books. Making him the first Braves player in 111 years to have 5 homers in his first 9 at-bats at the big league level. He’s with a team that has seen its fair share of sluggers like: Hank Aaron, Chipper Jones,, Eddie Matthews and Dale Murphy but I’m not sure we’ve ever seen anything like him. He’s just the second Major-Leaguer in history, age 22-or younger to accomplish the feat joining Carlos Delgado (1993-1994). He’s nine games into his career and he’s already etched his name into not only Atlanta’s history books but also the Major League Baseball history books. He’s putting up video game numbers in real-life. It’s honestly breathtaking. What can’t he do? He saved the game from ending in regulation by making a sliding grab in left field in the ninth inning to go along with the blast. I don’t know how to describe this kid. It’s truly a treat to watch him play the game. What can we expect from him tomorrow?

The Week of Austin Riley

Austin Riley has been in the major leagues just over a week, eight days to be exact, but he’s playing like he’s been in “The Peach State” all year long. Riley is also making his presence felt not only on the field but also in the clubhouse. To be honest with you, he reminds me a lot of a switch-hitter from DeLand, Florida, Atlanta Braves legend and 2018 National Baseball Hall of Famer, Chipper Jones. Over Austin Riley’s first eight days in the Atlanta clubhouse, he’s had 30 at-bats and has hit to the tune of a .367 average with 4 home runs, 9 RBI, a .406 on-base percentage and a 1.206 OPS. It’s looking like he wants to stay right where he is with Atlanta. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this kid will be special just give him time although he is already proving that he is the spark the Braves needed in the lineup. He’s got a long way to go but he’s proving his worth so far. I just can’t get enough of this kid.

A Legend Turns 78

For many years, Bobby Cox has been referred to as one of the game’s most influential figures to ever manage a baseball club. Cox was born May 21, 1941 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He began his major league career as a player in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization as a minor leaguer after signing with them out of free agency in 1959, although he never played a game in a Dodgers uniform. Bobby was traded from the Los Angeles organization to the Atlanta Braves in 1966, the first year the Braves were known as the Atlanta Braves after spending time in Boston and Milwaukee. He never played a game in an Atlanta uniform, he was then acquired by the New York Yankees following the 1967 season and played in The Bronx from 1968-1969. However, he would become one of the most highly-respected managers the game has ever seen. At just 30-years-old, Cox began his managerial career at the minor league level in 1971 with Yankees’ farmhand, Fort Lauderdale of the Florida State League. In 1978, Bobby Cox was hired as the manager of the Atlanta Braves, even though the Braves didn’t want to hire him due to his lack of major league managerial experience. He led the Atlanta club from 1978-1981 and then was hired as the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, where he stayed from 1982-1985. In 1990 however, he was called on by Braves executives to manage the team one again. This is where Bobby Cox found a home and stayed from 1990-2010. During that span, Cox led the Braves to an unprecedented 14 consecutive division titles from 1991-2005. Well-respected by players, managers, executives and fans all across the sport, Cox made sure he earned respect of umpires by getting ejected from a Major League record, 158 games. In his managerial career, Bobby Cox coached in 4,508 games with a record of 2,504-2,001 and a winning percentage of .556. Before his retirement in 2010, he was immortalized in Braves history as his number 6 was retired by the club. In 2017, when the Braves opened SunTrust Park, the team honored him with a bronze statue that depicts him standing on the top step of the dugout with one arm on the rail. In April 2019, Cox suffered a stroke a day after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch of Atlanta’s home opener vs. the Cubs but has since been released from an Atlanta-area hospital and is in a local-rehabilitation facility and is expected to make a full recovery. Hats off to a legend.