Posted: 6:29 am Monday, June 30th, 2014

Say hello again to the first-place Atlanta Braves 

By Mark Bradley

It's thumbs-up for Fredi G. and his resurgent team. (H Rumph Jr./AP)

It’s thumbs-up for Fredi G. and his resurgent team. (H. Rumph Jr./AP)

The Atlanta Braves are again alone in first place, holding a half-game lead over Washington. They were two games back six days ago, but they won two of three in Houston and four of four in Philadelphia. Such are the undulations of a six-month season.

The Braves have benefited, if slightly, from having B.J. Upton bat leadoff. He’s not exactly knocking the cover off the ball — he’s 6-for-22 since moving to the No. 1 spot, which has enabled him to lift his average from .202 to .205 — but he has managed a hit in all six games and has scored four runs and driven in three. The Braves have mustered an average of 4.2 runs over those six games, which trumps their season average of 3.6.

Even as we credit the Braves for winning six of seven, we must note that the competition has lessened. The Astros hold last place in the American League West. The Phillies just reclaimed the bottom spot in the National League East. The week ahead will see the Braves play the Mets, who just climbed out of last place, and the Diamondbacks, who are tied with Tampa Bay for the worst record in baseball.

Then the Braves travel to New York for four more against the Mets before heading to Chicago for a three-game set against the last-place Cubs, meaning that the final three weeks before the All-Star break won’t include a single game against a team with a winning record. This is the sort of scheduling break that a struggling team — from April 27 through June 23, the Braves played nine games below .500 — has to seize. So far they have.

Not that beating bad teams is always a given. The Nationals just split four games with the Cubs, and the low point of the Braves’ season came when they were swept at home by Philly 12 days ago. They just swept the same Phillies in Philly, beating Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez, two pitchers they hadn’t been able to handle at Turner Field.

That doesn’t make a lot of sense, but having B.J. Upton bat leadoff doesn’t make much sense, either. But, as they say around the ol’ batting cage, that’s baseball.

28 comments
Wilbo
Wilbo

7 wins in a row. Hilarious. This moribund team just loves to do this. Pretend to be for real before the annual October flop. I was hoping this year this useless organization would be kind enough to its fans not to tease everybody and just go ahead and fade early. Hopefully this little sputter will be all we hear of ATL before they drop down to about 3 in the East. Enough, Bravos, go away...

Stinger2
Stinger2

George Stein: I mostly respect and agree with your opinions. However, your comment about Fredi being an idiot is one I don`t understand. He makes mistakes for sure like we all do but he has not performed like an idiot. 

GeorgeStein
GeorgeStein

The Braves are where MLB wants everyone.   Tomorrow is July 1, and they're in the race.  The manager is an idiot, the lineup makes no sense, and the bullpen seems like it's thisclose to cratering every time someone not named Craig Kimbrel steps on the mound.    But every team has issues, which should make the balance of the summer and fall fun.

ms1964
ms1964

1/2 game up in NL East is like being tallest guy on University of Oz basketball team.  I'm not impressed.  This team is not that good.

GT_Falcons_Fan_GT500
GT_Falcons_Fan_GT500

Sorry, lol, I can't get excited about the Braves this year. The fact that they aren't 6 or 7 games at least up right now is ridiculous. You had the National down and out with injuries and could close them out. Got swept by the ailing Phillies at home couple of weeks ago. Back to back getting swept a few weeks ago. 


Sorry, yes we swept a terrible Phillies team, but the Braves can't do that against good competition and the Braves only get so many games against the Phillies. If you think the Braves are going to be in first place at the end of this week, I'd wager you'd lose that bet. 


Washington is getting healthier again and I think they'll take advantage better than the Braves fared in the first half of the season. The Braves just can't score runs and we aren't going to win anything scoring as little as we do. That and for once our bullpen is suspect. It's just not a good setup this year. 

Mr. Negative
Mr. Negative

Dead last in MLB with 2 out and RISP. My grill and I are not fooled

southgabrave
southgabrave

Remember BJ is still a 245 lifetime hitter!!!!!!

Peachs
Peachs

We have this every year.We put divisions in sports, SEC, ACC and baseball to draw an interest that would not naturally be there, and then we criticize the competition that we were tying to route around to make things interesting in the first place.

In college football it is more for the money, good teams tend to win most of the time, that extra playoff game, in baseball it is a long, long summer for the majority of the cities in major league baseball so they try to put more teams in the lottery of who goes to the world’s series, with baseball being a coin toss and many times the wild card team wins it all. Get in the show and one hot streak and you are World Champions, imagine if they had tried that during the 1927 Yankees, and they had not won.

We_Will_Get_Fooled_Again
We_Will_Get_Fooled_Again

It's faint praise, but B.J. hasn't been killing us lately. I'm dubious about his ability to continue this moderate amount of success he's having in the leadoff spot, but I'll take it while it lasts. He's doing enough good things right now to warrant continued playing time, if nothing else.

southgabrave
southgabrave

 
The bench has to get better.  It is time to cut loose Uggla.  The current situation isnt helping him or the Braves.  Doumit is a 3rd catcher (which they dont need) and a 5th OF'er and not a good one.  Schafer is excellent defense and a pretty good base runner but just hasnt had the at bats to put together the offense and probably wont.  Between Uggla, Doumit and Schafer there is no capiable pinch hitter on the bench.  That only leaves Laird and Pena.  They dont scare anyone either.  Defensive back-ups mainly.

The next stretch of games are going to make people feel good about the Braves chances but remember the competition.  If the dont win 70% of those games they didnt get it done.  If they go 500,  they are in real trouble!

southgabrave
southgabrave

I undeerstand Seth Smith is avaialable from the Padres.  I wonder what it would take to swing a deal?  He would be a viable replacement for BJ and a better outfielder and pinch-hitter than Doumit.  Would he fit in the salary spacing?


The Padres have a few veterans on the market and are looking to build with prospects.  The deal for Smith shouldn't take a lot, maybe a pitcher.  The Braves are loaded with pitching prospects and some like Harang that they cant use after this year.  I believe 7 of their top 10 prospects are pitchers.  They dont have room for all of them.  I know Sims, JR Graham and Jamie are probably not going to be traded,, but they still have Harang and Hursh plus a few others to offer up. 

inoto20
inoto20

Why didn't the nats play yesterday? I've never seen an off day for a team on sunday before.

DrPhill
DrPhill

What's the Braves' record when The Bossman doesn't start' and how are his strikeouts?

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

We need a last minute push to vote BJ into the All-star game, and let the NL benefit from all that production as well.  


Braves played as well for four games this weekend, as I think I ever remember them playing in succession.  Didn't hurt that the Filly's were somewhat uninspired, but that may have resulted because the Braves jumped all over them and put up some good pitching. 

scientist2
scientist2

BRAVES2143 thanks for reiterating the article nearly word for word, adding nothing. This will help people who didn't understand it the first time it was written

BRAVES2143
BRAVES2143

I'm not a fan of BJ batting lead off but the Braves are 6 and 1(5 and 1 when he started)  since the change so maybe there's something there.   Between now and the all star break this team plays the Mets twice, the Cubs and the Dbacks so they could put some space between them and the Nationals if they stay hot.  

Rick_C
Rick_C

@GeorgeStein The bullpen has been fine as of late.  ERA under 2 for the last 14 days.  Kimbrel's arguably been the shakiest.

jeffreyd
jeffreyd

@GT_Falcons_Fan_GT500 The Braves have had injuries too - to 3 of their top 4 starting pitchers. Not to mention the bullpen injuries.


And they haven't swept a "good" team, but they're 5-2 against the Brewers, who have the most wins in the Majors.


I'm not saying the Braves have played awesome all series, but they're not as terrible as the doom-and-gloomers make them out to be.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@southgabrave They would trade Jaime before Hursh.  Jaime isn't really a prospect anymore.  And it wouldn't make any sense for the Padres to take someone like Harang who is an aging veteran set to hit free agency after the season.

rtb2425
rtb2425

There was a pride parade in wrigleyville on sunday. So the teams played a scheduled double header on saturday so as to not interfere.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@DrPhill They are 38-36 when he starts.  You can do the math to find the answer to your question.

His K% is about 18.5% since moving to the leadoff spot.  Remains to be seen how long that will hold though, as this season he's alternated streaks of striking out a ton with streaks of striking out sparingly.

BRAVES2143
BRAVES2143

didn't see where you brought anything to the party so what's your point here?   Troll.

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

@Rick_C @GeorgeStein


Whats wrong with him Rick (Kimbrel that is)?  Kind of scary, during our last conversation I asked for a sweep of the Phillies and they got it! Wow! Maybe we can go back and forth some more if this had anything to do with them sweeping the Phils?  Perhaps we go on a 10 game streak?

Rick_C
Rick_C

@AnsweredTHIS The biggest differences for Kimbrel in comparison to years past are he is walking a lot more guys, and when he allows baserunners he's not stranding them as often.