• Exclusives

    Braves’ look to build a new streak vs Phils

    Despite a 54-minute rain delay in game 2, Alex Wood pitched 6 shutout innings, allowing only 2 hits.

    Despite a 54-minute rain delay in game 2, Alex Wood pitched 6 shutout innings, allowing only 2 hits and striking out 7. He walked away with the no-decision, bringing his record to 2-2 (2.78 ERA).

    Taking their lucky 13-game hit streak into a series against the last-place Miami Marlins, the Braves had high hopes for carrying through the series. Unfortunately, the Marlins and the weather had other plans. Game 2 snapped the Braves’ winning streak, but Game 3 got the ball rolling again for a hot Atlanta club that now has a 14 1/2-game lead in the National League East and the best record in the league.

    The Braves finished the 3-game set with the Marlins as one of only 6 teams in the National League with a winning percentage over .500 and the only NL team with a percentage above .600. Their .610 winning percentage is the highest in either league. The Braves even have a winning percentage over .500 on the road where they have certainly had their struggles this season, especially in the first half when they had one of the most demanding road schedules in baseball.

    As Kent Covington noted in his piece, the Braves have had the benefit of production from the outfield they thought they had when the team signed the Upton brothers over the winter:

    “Since the All-Star break, in 169 combined at-bats, Heyward and the Uptons are batting .331 with 9 HR and 27 RBI (BJ Upton missed 17 games over this stretch due to injury). Only 4 stolen bases between the three of them over that span, but with so much power up and down the lineup and the offense humming at the moment, why risk running into outs?”

    The outfield isn’t the only part of the Braves’ roster that is firing on all cylinders. Despite some of the biggest blows to any pitching staff, including the season-ending injuries to dominant relievers Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty as well as a grizzly play that saw Tim Hudson carted off the field for the season, Braves pitching has been electrifying. When the starting rotation has faltered, a rare occurrence, the lights-out bullpen has picked it up. David Carpenter, Luis Avilan and Jordan Walden have been a brilliant bridge to closer Craig Kimbrel on any given night.

    What the 14-game winning streak signaled to all of baseball, especially the young guys in the clubhouse who have heard otherwise, is that this team is built for the postseason.

    BRAVES FACE FIGHTIN’ PHILS…

    As the Phillies arrive at Turner Field, the Braves have a runaway lead in the NL East. However, the Phillies are attempting to keep pace with the Nationals and Mets. With a 52-65 record, on paper the Phillies can hardly compete with the 72-46 Braves. However, you can count on the Phillies doing everything in their power to make sure the Braves take their lumps, too.

    The Braves have Jordan Schafer back from the disabled list, a needed bench bat and outfield replacement. The timing of Schafer’s return may be very important given the hamstring trouble of Justin Upton who called his own bunt play in game 3 and came up with a gimpy hamstring. Upton’s bat has been a huge part of the Braves’ recent success and is important to get back in the lineup quickly. The same can be said for catcher Brian McCann who hasn’t played since pinch-hitting on the 10th due a sore right knee.

    A high point going forward is the return of Brandon Beachy’s command. It’s quite possible that his velocity won’t return entirely to normal until spring of 2014, as it takes at least 18 months to fully recover from “Tommy John” surgery (Beachy had the surgery in June of 2012).

    Monday’s game will feature Hamels (4-13, 3.81) vs. rookie Teheran (9-5, 2.96). Tuesday’s game will pit Martin (1-1, 6.75) vs. Medlen (9-10, 3.85). The final game of the series before the Braves again welcome the Nats will feature former Nat Lannan (3-5, 4.81) vs. Beachy (1-0, 5.00).

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter@framethepitch.