We all know that the Braves have had some struggles this year, very few of them, but they’ve still had them. Particularly with the Washington Nationals, who Atlanta will visit for three games beginning Monday night at 6:05pm CT. You might ask ‘What are we going to do with the absence of Dansby Swanson and Nick Markakis?” I might have your answer. Granted it was a small sample-size during the weekend series in Philadelphia, Ender Inciarte and Adam Duvall could play huge roles in the absence of these two stars. Your next question might be ‘How in the world did we avoid Scherzer for two series?’ Mad Max, as he is known is dealing with a mid-back strain and wasn’t healthy enough for his Tuesday start as of Sunday. But that doesn’t mean he won’t be back until then. His status for Tuesday is a toss-up. A lot of you have been asking me this: “What would a series sweep over Washington mean for the Braves?” It’s simple. Granted the Braves split their most recent series with Washington in Atlanta, the Nationals didn’t game any ground in the standings. Which is a good thing in the case of the Braves. Sweeping Washington would mean seven straight games against the Nationals gaining any ground in the standings, which would be both a big boost for the Braves and a big blow for Washington.
Coming into this weekend series against the Phillies, Atlanta was fresh off a two-game sweep courtesy of the Kansas City Royals. However, the Braves looked to be in mid-season form during the weekend in Philadelphia or what some may call “pre All-Star break” form. Friday night, Atlanta picked up a much-needed 9-2 win and on Saturday, the bats came to life and the Phillies never really had a chance from the start. Winning Saturday’s contest 15-7. A big part of that was an Ozzie Albies 3rd inning grand slam. The slam was Ozzie’s 15th homer of the year. Even though the Braves couldn’t win on Sunday, I think you have to feel really confident taking two of 3 from Philadelphia and head to Washington D.C. with a series win. Atlanta is now (62-44) on the year and 5.5 games ahead of Washington. One big impact was Ronald Acuña exiting the Sunday game with neck tightness and gave way to Charlie Culberson. Brian Snitker said Ronald Acuña “checked out good, we’ll just wait until tomorrow to see how he feels.” Snitker also said he thinks there is a chance that the All-Star center fielder could play on Monday night in Washington. On to Washington, my friends! Monday’s game will feature Dallas Keuchel taking the mound for Atlanta and Patrick Corbin getting the nod for the Nationals. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05pm CT from Nationals Park in Washington D.C.
Picture: The Sports Herald-Morganton.
Some might say that the two-game sweep against the Kansas City Royals, the second-worst team in Major League Baseball, trailing only Baltimore, was destined to happen or that it’s the same thing in a different year. But personally, I think it’s just what the Braves needed to light a fire under themselves and right the ship against the two team that have been in the taillights of the Braves for a number of months now. I mentioned it to a friend the other night and I’ll say it again “Baseball is a beautifully, cruel game, you’re going to lose games that you’re supposed to win at some point every season. That’s just how it works.” You might also say “The Braves always choke after the All-Star break.” Or “I told you this would happen it always does.” But, what you critics fail to realize is this. The 2019 Braves lineup is one of the most potent lineups in baseball behind maybe the Dodgers. These guys were picked third in the preseason but yet, look where they are. This team loves playing under pressure, that’s when they play their best. Personally, I think the best is only months away. Friday’s game will feature two of the best pitchers in baseball in Mike Soroka and Jake Arietta going head-to-head in “The City of Brotherly Love” at 6:05pm CT.
June was in fact a month for the ages. During the month of June the Atlanta Braves (50-35) compiled a record of (20-8) after Sunday night’s 8-5 loss to the New York Mets. In the 28 games last month, the Braves clubbed a franchise-record 56 homers over the course of the calendar month. That surpassed the previous record of 55, set by the 2003 Braves in May of that year by one. The previous record stood for 16 seasons. Also in the sixth month of 2019, the Braves tabbed Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Mike Soroka as 2019 National League All-Stars. Soroka and Acuña made Major League Baseball history when they were named to the team. As they are the first pair of players younger than 22-years-old, to be named to the same All-Star team in the same season. But that’s not all Acuña did in June. He will also be the eighth-youngest Brave to ever play in the Midsummer Classic at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio on July 9th. Acuña launched the record-breaking 56th home run in June 437 feet into the orange Flushing, New York skyline. Ronald will also participate in the 2019 MLB Home Run Derby. It’s only fitting that he hit the record-breaking homer. A few weeks back I received a text from a family member asking who I thought would break the franchise-record. My response? Ronald Acuña Jr on June 30th. They seemed to disagree as they thought Vanderbilt alum Dansby Swanson would club the historic homer. I responded to them with “I don’t care who hits it, but I’ve got a feeling it’ll be Ronald Acuña Jr., but either way we’re breaking it.” Little did I know that my prediction would be absolutely spot-on. What a month June was. If June was a prelude into July, then what should we expect in the seventh month of 2019? The next Braves game is Tuesday, July 2, 2019 vs. Philadelphia at 7:20pm ET. The Phillies haven’t named a starter as of right now. Dallas Keuchel makes his third start in a Braves uniform on Tuesday.
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.
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.
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.