Braves sweep Nationals, and I’ll admit I was wrong

AP Photo/Evan Vucci
AP Photo/Evan Vucci
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

On Friday afternoon, I wrote a piece to tell Braves fans they should expect a series loss this weekend against the Washington Nationals. By Saturday afternoon, I had been proven wrong.

On Saturday afternoon, Nationals starting pitcher Steven Strasburg, who had just been dealt a 3-1 loss, told the Washington Post‘s Adam Kilgore, “Honestly, I think our lineup is better.” Danny Espinosa added, “They’re good. I don’t think they’re better than us.” By Sunday afternoon, the Braves had answered those claims with a 9-0 beatdown of the Nationals that closed the door on any questions about who the better team was this weekend.

(Espinosa repeated the statement on Sunday evening, so maybe there’s a nice institution nearby where the franchise can drop him off.)

On Monday, the Braves will take a day off, sitting on an 11-1 record that is the best in baseball. They lead the New York Mets by 3.5 games, the Nationals by 4 games and the Miami Marlins by 9(!) games. They actually look like a juggernaut, yet are winning thanks to big play from scrappy bench players who are filling in for injured everyday starters.

Perhaps that’s what has been most surprising about the 2013 Braves so far — if you had told me that after Week 2, they’d be without Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman and Jonny Venters and still be 11-1, it would have sounded ridiculous. Factor in early slumps by Jason Heyward, Dan Uggla and BJ Upton — three guys who were supposed to be cornerstones of the offense — and it would have seemed downright impossible.

Now, the bad news. No team is ever as good as their highest high, and it’s hard to imagine the Braves playing any better than this. Are they a contender to win the division? Absolutely. Do they have enough talent on their roster to maintain the best record in baseball? Probably. But the first two weeks have been about as stress-free as it gets — in eight of 11 wins, the starting pitcher has earned the win, which is a testament in most of those games to the offense scoring early runs and giving the pitcher a chance to pitch from ahead instead of behind.

It’s going to get tougher.

It takes a minimum of 11 wins in the postseason to win the World Series. If the Braves go 11-1 in October, I’ll be elated. It’s nice to start that strong, but this squad is going to have to keep pushing through multiple injuries and then figure out its identity when all the injured players return. If it’s the same identity they have right now, it will be a special summer for Atlanta.

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