The first 20 days of the Atlanta Braves’ post-All-Star Break schedule was supposed to be a lot more stressful than this.
Twenty games in as many days, with 13 of them on the road, culminating in six road games against the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies — two division foes in desperate need of big wins to climb back into the NL East race.
It went a lot better than Braves fans could have expected, as the team went 16-4 in that stretch, with the Tim Hudson ankle injury being seemingly the only big loss along the way. But we’re not here to talk about some measly wins over the Mets or the White Sox.
We’re here to talk about 13 consecutive wins — the Braves’ best winning streak in 13 years.
What they’re doing right
In short, everything. The team is collectively streaking at the plate, on the mound and on the field at the same time. It’s the only way a Major League Baseball team gets to this level of winning streakage, and it’s a beautiful thing to see the Braves offense doing what it was built to do.
While it’s not an excuse anyone wants to hear, the Braves really did struggle through several key injuries in past months, and it reflected in poor play on the field. The team’s chemistry just wasn’t right, and they had a lot of trouble beating even the worst of teams. But with the return of outfielders Jason Heyward, BJ Upton (who’s actually hitting now!) and Justin Upton (and even Evan Gattis), the Braves got reliable pieces back into the lineup.
The pitching staff has been masterful since Hudson went down for the year. We all panicked — admit it, you did, too — at the thought of the Atlanta starting rotation without its only true veteran down the stretch, but it doesn’t seem so bad anymore. The bullpen, left for dead after the injuries of Eric O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters, has held lead after lead over the last 13 days to extend the winning streak several times.
Then, there’s the dominance of closer Craig Kimbrel. He’s been nearly perfect while frequently being called on to perform under the narrowest of margins, and he’s earned eight saves in 13 games.
Should we be worried?
It’s a real fear that the Braves have peaked too soon. They’ve slumped at times this year, and their best baseball is being played in July and early August. While it’s true that a baseball team is never as good as its best games, Braves fans should be confident their team is capable of playing good baseball against any team in the league — a promising sign for the postseason.
Sure, there’s going to be far more on the line in October, but Braves fans should enjoy the great baseball being played by this squad right now. The guys of Pardon the Interruption on ESPN compared it to the Miami Heat’s winning streak last season in that the Braves are coasting in some of these games against lesser talent, and we should revel in the ease at which they’ve stacked up 13 wins in a row. This should be fun, and if nothing else, it’s a reason to watch August baseball games that mean very little in the big picture.
Especially when your team has a bigger lead in its division than the other five division leaders combined.
Oh yeah, and thanks, Waffle House:
— The Morning Show (@MorningShow929) August 8, 2013