Installment #31: Peaking at a Good Time
Updated: Jun 22
I have not been writing much about the Atlanta Braves this year. I have still been following them religiously like the loyal fan I am, but I honestly have not felt like I have had much positive to blog about until recently. This is due in large part to the disappointment and the struggle that most of the 2021 season has been. Just months earlier, the Braves were one game away from representing the National League in the 2020 World Series. This year, injuries to key players and other unfortunate incidents have resulted in the Braves posting a mediocre, up-and-down record well into the late spring and early summertime. Two months ago, the Atlanta Braves were 30-35 and seven games behind the NL East-leading New York Mets. Things looked bleak for sure in Braves Country.
The Braves began the month of August with a 2-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. They were 52-54 and were four games out of first place in the National League East standings. They were playing better than they had earlier in the season, but the team still had trouble putting together a substantial streak of more than four wins in a row. The one-run loss to Milwaukee was the ninth straight loss and twelfth of the last thirteen contests when trying to reach the .500 mark. In fact, the Braves were in the middle of a stretch of eighteen games where they alternated wins and losses. Baseball is a long, 162-game season though, and for me, hope sprang eternal as Atlanta picked up outfielders Joc Pederson from the Chicago Cubs, got Adam Duvall back from the Miami Marlins, and Jorge Soler from the Kansas City Royals at the trade deadline.
Then the new players and others that had been quiet started to step up, the hits, runs, and wins for the Braves started coming and the Mets and Phillies started losing. The Braves hammered the St. Louis Cardinals 6-1 on August 3. The next day, Atlanta won 7-4, improving the team’s record to .500 and stopping the run of eighteen games where they won a game and then lost one. Then on Thursday August 5, 2021, the Atlanta Braves scored six runs in the eighth inning to beat the Cardinals 8-4. After 109 games, the team finally had a winning record of 55-54 for the first time all season. The Braves also completed a sweep of the Cardinals, their first series sweep since May.
The next six games for my Atlanta Braves went like this:
When the Braves got slammed 12-3 by the Cincinnati Reds, I thought “Here we go again. They were playing really good baseball, only to start getting their butts beat again. Story of the season.”
So when they started another series with the Washington Nationals this past weekend, I did not think it would go well. I actually missed Friday night’s game because it was delayed by more than three hours and so I became engrossed in pre-season NFL football. But upon waking up on Saturday, I found out that the Braves had won 4-2 on four solo home runs. The final out was recorded after 1 o'clock that morning and at 60-56, the Braves were tied for first place in the division with the Philadelphia Phillies, who had leapfrogged the New York Mets earlier in the week.
In the next game, Ozzie Albies homered for the fourth-straight game and Dansby Swanson hit two long balls and the Braves clobbered the Nationals 12-2. The Braves had sixteen hits in the game and even pitcher Max Fried got in on the action, getting the first base hit for the team.
And yesterday afternoon, the Braves held off a late comeback and edged Washington 6-5. Dansby Swanson hit a home run in his third straight game. Freddie Freeman homered, momentarily taking the team lead in HR’s with his 25th of the year. Two pitches later, Austin Riley joined him with his 25th. So the Braves are able to re-ignite an offensive prowess that only a few players were exhibiting before. When he was injured for the season on July 10, Ronald Acuna Jr. led the Braves with 24 home runs.
With the win, the Atlanta Braves complete just their third series sweep of the year. They have also won four consecutive series, something that if I’m not mistaken has not happened all year. They are 9-4 this season against a rebuilding Washington Nationals ball club. And most importantly, the Braves for now are in first place in the National League East division, pulling a game in front of the Phillies after they lost to the Reds. After getting blasted by the Dodgers on Sunday Night Baseball, the New York Mets are two-and-a-half games back in third place.
But there is still seven weeks of the regular season left and the division race is still so tight. Heading into the week, the Braves are 62-56 and they have three-game series against the Miami Marlins and the Baltimore Orioles, both of which are teams at the bottom of the NL East and AL East, respectively. But if the Braves continue to play like they have been, they should take care of this week with a 6-0 or 5-1 record. They seem to be peaking at a good time so I expect nothing less. But, stranger things have happened in major league baseball. The Marlins are in the Braves' same division and might still a win if they're not careful and the Orioles might sneak up on them in their own stadium. Plus the Phillies and the Mets still have games. So we shall see what transpires.