In a season full of ups and downs, it seems the Braves are once again ascending over their past few games. Both the bats and bullpen have done their job over the past three games vs. the Dodgers and Phillies, and Atlanta is in the position to win their second straight series tonight in Philadelphia. That may seem odd to celebrate in the middle of June based on where the Braves are viewed as an organization in the MLB, but after the way this season has been so far, it is a significant success.
Without a doubt, the Braves pitching staff leaves a lot to be desired. But the bullpen has certainly shown incremental improvements. For instance, the Braves bullpen has not allowed multiple runs in a game after the sixth inning since last Wednesday. The Braves are 4-1 over that span. If the pitching staff can simply continue to improve, as a whole, to being a league average unit the rest of the way, it could lead to good things for Atlanta.
A big reason why is because the offense is experiencing progression itself. Ronald Acuna Jr. is an MVP candidate, and is back to performing like it in June. Since April 15th, Austin Riley is 4th in wOBA, 5th in OPS, and 5th in wRC+ among all qualified hitters in the majors. He not only is making a clear case to earn his first All-Star nod, he is making a strong case to be the NL’s starting third basemen in the game.
Though Freddie Freeman is still trying to round into form, Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies are once again emerging as one of the best middle infield combos in baseball. Simply put, the Braves offense and bullpen are slowly starting to succeed. The hope is that it can continue over the rest of this month to really put the Braves in a position to make a move in the standings.
Of course, strong performances from the starting rotation always helps. Tonight’s starter, Tucker Davidson, did exactly that in his second start of the season, and third of his career. Davidson allowed only one hit, zero runs, and produced five strikeouts compared to zero walks against the Nationals over 5 2⁄3 innings. He threw 51 strikes over 88 pitches.
That is a working trend in the Braves favor. When an Atlanta starter goes five or more innings and allows three or less runs, the Braves are 23-10 this season. If the Braves can get another good performance from Davidson, they have to feel good about their chances.
Atlanta will face a familiar foe in Zach Eflin. Since the beginning of 2020, this will be the sixth time Eflin has faced the Braves. The Phillies are 4-1 in those games. Eflin himself has continued to build off his successful 2020 season with an impressive 2021 season to date. Though just 2-5, he has a 4.10 ERA, 3.22 FIP, and 68/9 K to BB ratio over 68 innings. He has done well to limit scoring chances overall this season, so the Braves will have to take advantage of opportunities when they arise.
A win tonight would allow the Braves to earn their fourth straight win. If they get the win, it will be the third time this season they have achieved that feat. However, it will not only mean they will win their second straight series, but will also be the first time they will be above .500 this season. Though this is not a must win situation, it is arguably the Braves opportunity to achieve their most successful position so far this season record wise. It will be another small but significant boost to their efforts to get back in the postseason picture.
Game Date/Time: Wednesday, June 9, 7:05 p.m. ET
Location: Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, PA
TV: Bally Sports South
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 The Fan, WNNX 100.5, Braves Radio Network