The Atlanta Braves continued to add to their giant-slaying reputation, as they earned a series victory against one of the best teams the American League has to offer – the Minnesota Twins.
This latest Atlanta Braves series win against such a strong opponent gives belief that success during the dog days of August can eventually translate into a magical October down the road.
It was a game that saw a little bit of everything.
The Braves jumped out to a huge early lead, thanks to a strong power display courtesy of the Atlanta 1-2-3 hitters – Ronald Acuna, Jr., Ozzie Albies, and Freddie Freeman – who all homered, with Ozzie doing it twice.
Charlie Culberson didn’t leave the yard, but he did reach base via hit four times on the afternoon.
Max Fried was equally as impressive, striking out a season-high 10 batters on his way to his 13th win of the season.
Minnesota did put up a 9th inning rally, pushing across four runs in the final frame against Josh Tomlin, but still fell far short by an 11-7 final.
The Braves (68-48) are now back to twenty games above .500, and maintain their 6-game lead atop the National League East.
In particular, a few storylines from Wednesday’s game provide real excitement for what the rest of this season may have in store. Here’s a look at three of them.
1. The Atlanta Braves continue to homer at a historic pace.
In Wednesday’s finale against the Twins, the Atlanta Braves continued to add to their already-impressive reputation as a high-power offense.
The Braves clubbed four homers against Minnesota, with two coming back-to-back in the first inning as Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman each ambushed Twins starter Martin Perez on first pitches, most decidedly setting the tone for an offensive onslaught that would continue the rest of the game.
Ozzie Albies would deliver another blow to the Twins pitching when he added a solo shot in the 6th inning.
Ronald Acuna, Jr. joined the home run barrage with his 8th inning shot.
For the Braves, it’s been a special season for the offense from a home run perspective.
So special, even, that it is on pace to make franchise history.
As of Wednesday, Atlanta sits at 179 long balls on the season – good enough for third place in the National League.
The team record? That would be 235 home runs, set back in 2003.
The pace of the current Atlanta offense? 250 home runs.
2. Max Fried showed impressive strikeout capability.
Max Fried has had a bit of an up-and-down 2019 campaign.
His brilliance in March/April (2.30 ERA in 5 starts) gave lots of promise to a potential breakout season.
May and June proved much more problematic for the Braves’ lefty, as Fried allowed 34 earned runs over the course of 12 starts during that time.
But the Max Fried the Atlanta Braves have seen since the All-Star Break has been more of the early-season version with so much promise.
Wednesday’s start against the Minnesota Twins, one of the highest-scoring lineups in baseball, was another indication of Fried’s recent emergence.
His final line:
5.1 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 10 K, 1 BB
Obviously, the number that jumps off the page from that game log is the strikeout total.
The ten punchouts is a season-high for Fried, and that it came against a highly potent Twins lineup that boasts the third lowest strikeout rate in the American League is especially noteworthy.
For the Braves, this development with Max Fried is one to keep an eye on, as it could prove to be a gamechanger for the Atlanta rotation.
3. The Atlanta Braves can compete with the big boys.
Wednesday’s victory in the series finale felt more like a statement than anything.
That message? This Braves team can play with the elite.
Let’s call them what they are: the Minnesota Twins are one of the best the American League has to offer.
Their 70-44 record is good for the third highest winning percentage in the AL, as is their run differential (+134).
This three-game set gave the Atlanta Braves a taste of what it’d be like to match up against a powerhouse lineup and a strong pitching staff.
Though the Braves wouldn’t ever face the Twins again until the World Series (payback for ’91, anybody?), the fact that Atlanta took two of three from Minnesota – on the road – provides a clear indication that this isn’t a team that is “lucking” their way into another postseason berth: it’s a team that can compete with baseball’s best.
Need further proof? Here’s how Atlanta has fared against some of the winningest teams on the schedule in 2019, listed by winning percentage –
- vs MIN (.614): 2-1
- vs CLE (.596): 2-1
- vs CHC (.544): 5-2
- vs WSH (.535): 6-6
- vs PHI (.522): 6-6
- vs STL (.513): 4-2
All .500 or better marks against the strongest teams on the schedule to this point.
Oh, what’s that? The giant Dodger blue elephant in the room?
Well, yes…Atlanta got swept by Los Angeles back in May (they’re pretty good).
Fortunately for the Braves, they’ll get another opportunity to show they can hang with the “big boys” on the block when they host the Dodgers next weekend (beginning August 16th).
That will be the ultimate test for this Atlanta Braves team.