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.

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.

Atlanta Heats Up, Avoids first five-game skid

Sunday, the Atlanta Braves (21-20) boarded the Atlanta-bound plane with a 6-4 record over their most recent 10-game road trip which included a convincing sweep of the Miami Marlins (10-29) to begin the 10-game stretch. Next on the schedule was a dreaded to trip to the West Coast, for three dates with Justin Turner and the NL West leading Los Angeles Dodgers (27-19). The West Coast swing ended in being swept by the Dodgers. Then came a trip to the desert to face a Diamondbacks club (22-19) that had recently lost a series to the Tampa Bay Rays (24-15). So things were looking like Atlanta might only get wins in Miami and maybe out in Arizona if the bats could wake up. The Arizona series started with a loss to the Diamondbacks on Thursday. But then resulted in three consecutive wins to head back to the friendly confines on a high note. The Braves avoided their first five-game skid since they lost six straight from September 25-30, 2017. That’s a span of about a year and a half without losing five-straight contests.

What’s Next for Atlanta?

Starting Tuesday, May 14, 2019 and ending Thursday, May 16, 2019, the Braves will welcome the St. Louis Cardinals (22-19) to SunTrust Park to begin a six-game home stand. Which includes a visit from Milwaukee (24-18) on Friday through Sunday. Will the Midwest momentum hang around? Find out beginning Tuesday, May 14, 2019 at 7:20pm ET when the Cardinals visit Atlanta.

Braves Halt Struggles, Sweep Marlins in Pivotal Series

Coming into this 10-game, three-city road trip, the Braves were at (15-16) and in third place in the National League East and the Marlins were sitting at an MLB-worst (9-21). Atlanta had been struggling to say the least and the series in Miami would be the perfect way for them to get motivation back and get back on track. Sunday, the Braves had already won the series but were competing for the three-game sweep of the Fish. Julio Teheran looked masterful on Sunday, as he tossed six innings of two hit, shutout baseball. Once Teheran exited, the ball was handed over to Dan Winkler, part of a Braves bullpen that seems to be on their way to getting back to form. Winkler pitched one inning without giving up a run. Jerry Blevins then came on for the Braves and tossed a third of an inning without giving up a run. Josh Tomlin allowed one run over an inning and two-thirds tying the ballgame at one. Nick Markakis previously homered to give the Braves a lead late. After Tomlin’s appearance, Luke Jackson came on and slammed the door on the Fish and the series. Will Holland got the win and improved to (1-0), Tayron Guerrero was slapped with a loss and fell to (1-1) and Luke Jackson was credited with the save, his second save of the season.

Atlanta is now (18-16) on the year and in second place in the NL East. Miami fell to (9-24) and remains in the cellar of the NL East.

Up next: The 10-game road trip continues with three games at Dodger Stadium tonight at 9:10pm CT. Kevin Gausman (1-2, 4.83) will take the hill for the Braves against LA’s Walker Buehler (3-0, 5.22).

A Glance At the Braves April

Many people weren’t expecting the Braves to be as strong in 2019 as they were in 2018, as much as i wish those people were wrong, early indications seem to be proving those critics right. Atlanta started off on the wrong foot when they got swept in a three-game series in Philadelphia against a loaded Phillies club. When they opened the gates to SunTrust Park for the first time in the season, things started to look up for the 2019 Braves as in some ways, they echoed the success of the 2018 team when they went on to win seven of their next eight contests. You can’t help but think that they caught the Cubs and Rockies when both teams’ Opening Day jitters seemed to be lingering around for several weeks at the beginning of the season. Atlanta swept both Chicago and Colorado on the road, with the latter being shortened by a blizzard in Denver, Colorado area. Atlanta opened the home slate by sweeping the Cubs and beating the Marlins 2-1 in a three-game series. But things looked like they might be going by the wayside when the Arizona Diamondbacks came calling and swept the Braves at home in that same home stand that included a four-game series split with the Mets. After the Braves and Mets went their separate ways, Atlanta went on a six-game, two city road-trip which included paying visits to Cleveland and Cincinnati, Ohio, respectively. Atlanta beat Cleveland 2-1 in three games and lost to Cincinnati 2-1 in a three-game series. The Braves then returned home only for a rude welcome from the Colorado Rockies losing to them 2-1. Atlanta is currently in the middle of a four-game series with San Diego in Atlanta, that series is tied at a game apiece thus far.

What Needs to Change in May?

With the exception of newcomer Jacob Webb and Luke Jackson, our best bet is to call up some dependable bullpen arms so we don’t have to keep relying on our starters to go six-plus innings every night.

Whether anything changes or not, I’ll never give up on the Braves.