After going on a seven-game losing skid and dropping three series in a row the Atlanta Braves (21-15) came up with a huge weekend sweep of the Chicago Cubs (12-24) at Turner Field. The offense and pitching showed up very timely in the series against the bottom dwellers of the NL Central who have lost seven of their last eight.
Once again the starting pitching rotation continued to have tremendous success and in all three games they had Julio Teheran, Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang pitch deep in to games. After having a much needed off day on Thursday the team's solidified ace, Teheran, came out and only gave up a single hit in eight innings of superb ball that had his teammates raving about how well he's pitched all season. Santana improved to 4-0 with a majestic start on Saturday by going seven innings of shutout baseball and Harang recorded the win in the series finale with nine punch outs in six innings of two-run ball.
The three in the series combined for two wins, 21 innings, 12 hits, five walks, 25 strikeouts, and only allowed three earned runs. Between seven different starters this year they have given their team a Major League best 28 quality starts. Teheran is fourth in all of baseball in IP (58), second in WHIP (0.81), third in ERA (1.71), and seventh in WAR (1.8). The rotation all together only gave up four runs in the series and lowered their MLB best earned run average.
The offense picked up for their rather gaudy performance that they displayed in the past few series and improved in an area where they have struggled all season long.
Entering the series the Braves were hitting right near the Mendoza line as a team with runners in scoring position, but against the Cubs that was the area in which they excelled. In two of the three games they pulled away late with big time clutch hits from Freddie Freeman in Friday night's walk-off winner and on Sunday from Evan Gattis and Jason Hewyard who hit late inning home runs. It is important to note that Heyward ended his 109 at-bat homeless streak with his bomb into the right field bullpen with his pink bat. For the first time in any series this season the Braves hit .500 (8-for-16) with runners on second or third base. This provides a positive sign heading into the series on the road with the Giants.
It's very rare that a team that has scored the least runs in the majors is atop their division, but the pitching has been that dominant.
Another trend that has continued is Dan Uggla being out of the starting lineup. The once slugging second baseman has not started since May 6 and has only appeared in five games this month. His error prone glove and non existent bat just couldn't stay in Fredi Gonzalez's starting lineup. Also B.J. Upton didn't play in the series finale, but it appeared to be just an off day for him that let Jordan Schafer get some much needed playing time.
Justin Upton was bruised up a bit in the series against the Cubs, but should be able to play in the series against the Giants early this week. He sat out the series finale with a sore back after getting ran into by Anthony Rizzo in a run down and being hit by a pitch on his lower back Saturday night. He has carried a big load of the offense this season and the team looks for others to try to get into hot streaks at the plate and be more consistent.
Overall a great past weekend for a team in need of stringing together some wins.