Last October, Atlanta Braves president of baseball operations John Hart stood (or maybe sat) in front of the media and said the 2016 team would be better than the 67-95 bunch that had just finished the 2015 season. By May of this year, Braves Nation was collectively rolling its eyes at that promise.
If the Braves can find a way to win seven of their final 10 games, they’ll prove Hart right.
Through 152 games, the Braves currently hold the same 61-91 record as one year ago at this time. They’re back on track because of a 16-12 stretch over the last month that has seen far more good things than bad – proof that the franchise is moving in the right direction.
Since I did a lot of “they’re on pace for …” during the massive slide at the beginning of the year, here’s a positive one for you: if you extrapolated the current 16-12 stretch to an entire 162-game season, that’s a 93-69 record. They’d be seven games ahead in the Wild Card race.
Instead, it was the New York Mets that entered the week with a one-game lead in that race. They were ready to pick up a few easy wins against the NL East cellar-dwellers with Atlanta coming to town, as they continued to fend off the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants.
But what they got from the Braves was very different. Atlanta swept the Mets, thanks in part to one of the greatest catches in Braves history, especially if you consider the stakes. Center fielder Ender Inciarte scaled the wall to rob Yoenes Cespedes of a walk-off home run in Wednesday night’s game, saving the win.
The Braves have now won five consecutive games, and the Inciarte catch didn’t just clinch a sweep of their Mets, but it also won the season series against the defending National League champs. Seriously – the Braves won 10 of 19 games against the Mets during this season.
The Mets ended the series in a three-way tie with the Cardinals and Giants for two Wild Card spots, and who knows how they’ll react to Wednesday night’s heartbreaking defeat. The lowly Braves – and I write this gleefully – just might have broken the Mets.
Imagine this: the 2016 Braves, once in serious contention for the worst record in franchise history, have gotten at least eight hits in 21 consecutive games, the longest single-season streak in Atlanta Braves history, according to Atlanta Journal-Constitution beat writer David O’Brien.
First baseman Freddie Freeman has reached base in 41 straight games, the third-longest streak in franchise history. If he reaches base successfully in all of the Braves’ remaining games, he’ll be one game shy of Gary Sheffield’s record of 52 straight games in 2002, O’Brien also said. Imagine sitting on that all offseason.
Freeman also has a 25-game hitting streak, which puts him just eight games shy of Dan Uggla’s franchise record of 33 set in 2011.
See? There’s still plenty these guys are playing for, and if you haven’t turned on a Braves game in a while, you might be surprised to see they’ve actually become a really decent team, and they’re bordering on “pretty good.”Follow @Sean_Breslin