• Exclusives

    Braves offense ranks among best in baseball

    By Andrew Hirsh

    Following a troublesome 0-4 start to kick off the 2012 schedule, the Braves’ hitting (or lack thereof) led to quite a bit of concern in Atlanta.

    Now, just a few weeks later, it’s safe to say that those worries have faded away.

    Atlanta has gone 7-1 since dropping its first four decisions of 2012, and in the process has been able to manufacture the offense necessary to become a successful ball club.

    After clobbering the Mets 14-6 on Wednesday in the rubber match of a three-game series, the Braves briefly became the highest scoring team in the MLB with 65 runs, overtaking the Texas Rangers for the top spot. As of Thursday afternoon, the Braves now rank third in MLB in runs scored.  In getting to that point, they’ve plated at least seven runs in four of their last six games.

    Couple that kind of hitting with a strong pitching staff, and all of a sudden there’s a lot to be excited about.

    “We’ve been swinging the bat great all year,” Freddie Freeman said, who had a double in addition to his HR. “It was only a matter of time before it all came together.”

    Of those that have picked up the slack of late, Jason Heyward’s recent production has been the most noticeable and most important to the team’s overall success. The third-year outfielder has been on a tear since the Braves began their five-game winning streak earlier in the month, hitting .423  and scoring six times in his past seven starts.

    After going hitless in his first four at-bats on Wednesday afternoon, Heyward slapped a triple down the right field line, extending his current hitting streak to eight games.

    Contributing to the Braves’ early offensive issues was the fact that they faced a lot of quality left-handed pitching, which has often been a struggle for this team over the past few years. Matched up against Johan Santana, Jonathon Niese and JA Happ in the first week of the season, Atlanta’s bats fell relatively silent out of the gate, and it showed in the standings.

    But the Braves’ fortunes against LHP have taken a 180-degree turn, as they’ve won each of their last four contests against lefty starters. This includes Tuesday’s victory over Santana, who Atlanta scored six runs on in 1 and 1/3 innings, forcing the future Hall-of-Famer to exit earlier than any other outing of his career.

    Both Brian McCann and Heyward have been hitting well against LHP, going 4 for 15 and 6 for 17 thus far against southpaws, respectively. Heyward’s numbers are especially encouraging, as he had only 20 hits against lefties in 2011.

    The Braves now travel to the desert for their first west coast swing of the year, beginning in Arizona on Thursday night. Atlanta will play their next seven contests against the Diamondbacks and Dodgers, who are two of the best teams in the National League with  a 16-6 combined record.

    While the Mets and Brewers are both adequate opponents, seeing the Braves offense succeed against the likes of LA and Arizona would go a long way towards convincing the baseball world that they’re for real.

    Before you go, check out the Lineup Card on the BravesWire homepage with headlines from over a dozen Braves news/opinion sources.