Lately we’ve been writing up non-traditional recaps of the Atlanta Braves’ games, giving more of our impressions of the game, series, and team as a whole, rather than just pumping out the typical who did what kind of numbers. We hope you enjoy this new approach to talking about what the Braves are doing. If I can impart my impressions of the last week or so of the Braves’ performances in just a sentence, it would have to be – The Atlanta Braves Are Running on All (mostly all) cylinders! After a rain soaked Tuesday night postponement, it was great to see Atlanta baseball again! Let’s take a look…
First off, I cannot recall the last time I saw any game, let alone a game the Braves were involved in, that had both starters on each team with a complete game! Because baseball has trended for many years now to more of a specialized approach to pitching, with starters, middle relievers, spot starts, ROOGYs, LOOGYs and closers that come in for a mere half inning, it’s rare you see a complete game from any starter, never mind two in the same game! Let’s not read too much into that though.
Cliff Lee has always been good, typically inducing quite a few strikeouts, but while he pitched very solid tonight, throwing 25 first pitch strikes, 13 strikeouts, and gave up only one walk and one run, he still had to go a career high 128 pitches to the ever-patient Braves’ hitters to keep it as close as it was at the end of the game, and the Braves still got 11 hits off Lee. After recent events, I would imagine the Phillies hated to lose by a mere one run, but I doubt they wanted to go to their pen either!
Julio Teheran‘s complete game was a different animal, so to speak. Manager Fredi Gonzalez has demonstrated he’s never afraid to go to the usually strong Braves’ bullpen, but Teheran has been pitching so well this year, with no reported signs of soreness or issues of any kind, that the confidence Gonzalez showed in Julio is a definite testament to how good they believe he is. Sure the bullpen has struggled some lately, but I don’t personally think that’s why (or certainly not the only reason) that Julio was allowed to throw a complete game of 115 pitches. He allowed only 3 hits, and while he only got 3 strikeouts against the Phillies, he walked zero batters! As manager Fredi Gonzalez said postgame, they had no problem going a complete game, and noted that Teheran was dominant! I said back in the spring that I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Teheran have that illusive break-out year, and he’s certainly on track.
Braves Bats – A Growing Consistency
Even with only 1 run, eleven hits against the always-tough Cliff Lee isn’t easy. The Braves are 7-3 in their last 10 games, and have won 5 games in a row, sweeping the Washington Nationals, and managing to string together enough timely hits and homers to beat up on the Phillies as well. The Atlanta Braves now have 5 hitters in their lineup hitting above (and well above) a .300 BA, and one very close!
Chris Johnson had been struggling a touch in his last few games, but he got back on track tonight with 3 hits, and the same struggles have plagued the bat of Evan Gattis as well, but El Oso Blanco gathered 4 hits this evening against one the toughest to achieve multi-hit games against. I can only assume that a sign of things to come for a guy the the Braves organization, and fans, have placed a good deal of hope in.
Justin Upton has obviously turned things completely around, and appears by all eye tests to be totally in the zone at the bat! His swing is short, compact, and he’s exuding a new confidence with each at-bat. Andrelton Simmons – we spend so much time talking about his defense, we sometimes forget he’s hitting .333, with a great feel for both the leather and the wood!
B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla continue to hit the ball hard, get on base, and contribute considerably above anything we saw them from through the entire 2013 season, and the only player that seems to be mired in a current slump is Jason Heyward. I always feel like every year will be Jason’s year to go big, but he has yet to become that player many thought he could be, with too much inconsistency and injury. I think he can turn his current slump around and contribute to the team greatly, and his ability in the outfield alone makes him valuable, but I’m not certain now that Heyward will ever be one of the National League’s best. I hope I’m dead wrong.
Final Tomahawk Take
It might be a little worrisome that the Braves often strand entirely too many runners, but their wins have not come just on homers this year. Oh, there have been plenty of them, but there has also been a good deal of solid, fundamental baseball played each game, good base-running, great defense, and as we’ve already noted – phenomenal pitching. As I said the other day, this Atlanta Braves team is the real deal, and another 96 win season is by no means out of the question. A couple of weeks ago, I went on record predicting a 90 win season, but I’m starting to re-think that one, Nationals injuries or not! Go Braves!