Two Weeks in Review
Since we last talked, the Atlanta Braves (39-28) trailed in the NL East standings by a half-game to the divisional rival Washington Nationals. However, that changed following a four-game series between the two ball clubs. The Braves would take three out of four and build a 1.5 game lead in the division thanks to stellar pitching and situational hitting.
It was a collective effort by each member of the Braves to win the series. In game two, Mike Foltynewicz (5-4) squared off against Stephen Strasburg (6-6) and the two battled for seven innings. The pitchers were locked in a duel until Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson connected on a breaking pitch to launch a high fly ball over the left field wall for a three-run blast in the seventh inning, clinching a monumental game two victory. Foltynewicz dealt all night, completing his first career complete game shutout, only allowing two-hits while fanning 11 Nationals hitters.
After dropping game three in 14 innings, the Braves were one win away from taking a 3-1 series lead over the Nationals. Thanks to utility man Charlie Culberson and Swanson, the Braves celebrated victorious. Trailing 2-1 in the seventh, Swanson delivered again, yanking a pitch high and far over the left field wall, knotting the game at two runs apiece. Then in the ninth, Swanson roped a double, allowing Culberson to pinch-hit next at bat. Culberson then launched his eighth career home-run, four of which have been the in the walk-off variety, including in the game four victory.
Following the impressive series win over the Nationals, the Braves then hit the road and went out West to face the Los Angeles Dodgers (34-32) and San Diego Padres (33-37). The West coast hasn’t been friendly to the Braves in recent years and that drought continued during the six-game road trip, winning only two games. After a great pitching series at home, the Braves pitching rotation struggled mightily, allowing their opponent to score over three runs in five of the six contests. Despite the road game blunders, Atlanta still maintains an impressive 21-16 record away from home.
In the final two games of the week, the Braves hosted the New York Mets (28-36) in a critical matchup to get back in the win column. The Braves desperately needed to take both games against the struggling Mets and they did, generating momentum into this weekend’s series against the Padres in Atlanta.
The Braves trailed 2-1 in the sixth inning until Freddie Freeman opened up the inning with a 375-foot solo shot, tying the game at two apiece. Then the fun began. Following three singles, two walks and one run, Ozzie Albies stepped into the box. Don’t throw him an inside fastball belt high or he will make you pay. Battling a 1-1 count, Albies smothered a 396-foot bomb into the right field bleachers, recording his second career grand-slam. His 16th homerun of the year puts him second in the NL homerun list.
The Braves would go on and win the final game against the Mets on Wednesday behind the arm of Mike Soroka (2-1). Soroka has been sidelined with a shoulder injury since May 17 and had a fabulous outing during his return on Wednesday. Soroka dealt 6.1 innings, striking out four, and didn’t allow his first and only hit until the seventh inning. Freddie Freeman drove in both runs, including his third straight game with a home run. The Braves went on to win 2-0 and now claim a one game lead over the Nationals in the division.
What’s to come?
Beginning Thursday, the Braves will have an opportunity at home to revenge themselves against the Padres. In recent weeks, following a big series win, the Braves have been sluggish against lower-tier teams, and the ball club is looking to reverse that trend with a series win that will also extend their NL East lead. The Braves continue to swing a hot-bat at home, thanks to NL hitting average leader Freddie Freeman (.364) and Nick Markakis, who leads the league in doubles (20) and hits (88).
Following the four-game series at home, Atlanta will head to Canada and square off against the Toronto Blue Jays, who have struggled this year. The Braves are aiming to win five or six of their next seven games.