In the first three series to start the season the Braves struggles on offense were well documented, but the bats took a complete turnaround this weekend in their three game sweep of the Washington Nationals. Atlanta scored 23 runs against their NL East rival and went 33-for-108 (.306) from the dish with seven home runs. They finished with a bang in the series finale on Sunday and made easy work of Gio Gonzalez who entered the game with a 0.75 ERA and departed after six innings with a 3.50 earned run average. Least to say it was a good weekend for the Braves in their first opening weekend series at Turner Field.
If anyone said they could have predicted the way that Aaron Harang has started the season then their nose would start to extend like Pinocchio's nose in the GEICO commercial. So far the 35-year old has posted a 2-1 record and is tied for the best ERA in the National League at 0.96 with Yovanni Gallardo. Pretty amazing when you consider he's only given up nine hits in 18.2 innings and has a 0.80 WHIP. His stuff has been on point and he just so happens to have the highest WAR (0.4) of any Braves pitcher this season.
The sabermetric stat junkies can rejoice! Finally there have been enough games played this season for players to register a wins above replacement level and Freddie Freeman charts out at the top right now with a 0.9 mark tied with Chase Utley, Alexei Ramirez, and Carlos Gomez. Andrelton Simmons defense has already taken notice and has a 0.4 mark on defense. Freeman is second in the Majors with a 240 wRC+.
After the Braves started off last season on fire Danny Espinosa said that he didn't believe that they were better than Washington and Stephen Strasburg said he didn't believe that Atlanta had a better lineup. This year it's general manager Mike Rizzo stating his beliefs, as he said that he believes that Washington is the better of the two teams. So far record has it that it is the other way around.
Justin Upton had a remarkable first month in his first year with the Braves, but his hot streak at the plate over the past four games may be the best short stretch of play in his career. In his last 14 at-bats he has 11 hits and four home runs to go along with eight runs batted in. With his swing on line right now he will stop his pregame ritual flip drill in which he hits baseballs tossed to him by a coach just a few feet away. This in the past has made him overanalyze his swing and he doesn't want that to happen. Right now J-Up doesn't need to fix a thing, as he is one of the hottest hitters in the league. He has always been thought of as a potential MVP candidate.
For the first time in his career Andrelton Simmons hit in the No. 5 spot in the lineup and had outstanding results, as he went 2-for-5 with a triple and three-run shot over the center field fence in the Braves 10-1 win on Sunday afternoon. The gold glove shortstop has not only flashed his leather this season, but he has been red hot with the bat as well. He has made a good case for being one of the top shortstops in the league with a .306 average and has yet to strike out in 36 at-bats this season. He moved up in the lineup with Dan Uggla and Chris Johnson both receiving the day off. Tyler Pastornicky and Ramiro Pena made the fill in spots and each recorded a hit.
He has already placed himself in historic company after putting forth one of the best debuts in a Braves uniform by pitching eight innings of three hit shutout ball against the Mets. For his second start he won't be in the friendly confines of Turner Field, but at Citizens Bank Park to take on the Phillies on Monday night. The happy go-lucky pitcher will look to have another fun outing on the mound and the keys to his success are to pound the ball low in the strike zone.
LEAGUE WIDE NEWS
If you haven't seen this prank click on the link above and be prepared to LOL. The Braves former outfielder for a month thought that one of his teammates was deaf but it turns out he in fact was not. Great prank by his teammates who play for the El Paso Chihuahuas.
Kyle Lohse led the Brewers to a 4-1 victory and their best start since 1987, as he recorded all but the final out in the game against the Pirates. Still the only two losses on the season for the first team win in baseball came courteous of the Braves.
The Rangers offense has been less than spectacular with just only five home runs this year, which ranks second to last in all of baseball. To make things worse Adrian Beltre will be out for what they hope to be a short period of time with a quad strain. The rest of the AL East will not wait for them to catch up either.
Brandon Crawford ended things in the 10th inning with a splash into McCovey Cove to lift the Giants to a 5-4 win over the Rockies. It's always awesome to see the kayakers in a frenzy for home run balls in the Bay.
In 21 career starts Tony Cingrani has yet to allow more than five hits in a game pitching for the Reds. This is pretty amazing when considering he uses his fastball more than any other starter in the league.
Matt Latos was diagnosed with a flexor mass strain in his elbow and won't be able to pitch for the Reds for at least another month. He is very vital to the rotation that will most likely need him to make any sort of playoff push later in the season.