The Atlanta Braves are irrefutably one of the hottest teams in baseball. Their 11-game win streak is not even the biggest storyline as that 11-game win streak, the last 4 of which came within their division, has put them 13 1/2 games ahead in the NL East. With a series in D.C., the Braves look to put even more ground between themselves and the Washington Nationals. Their 13 1/2 game lead in the division is the biggest differential of any division in baseball, the next closest being the Los Angeles Dodgers who have a 6 game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West.
For the first time in perhaps the entire season, the team is firing on all cylinders. Pitching, defense and offense are all bringing their best every night and it is showing in the box score. The Braves wouldn’t be playing .600 ball if it weren’t for the roster truly playing to its potential. This is what the Braves front office knew this group of players would be capable of and this is what the fans have been waiting to materialize all season. While the Braves have scratched out wins all season, holding the division lead for much of it, they have never been as much fun to watch as they have been the last two weeks. And from the looks on players’ faces, they’ve not had this much fun playing the game before, either.
A few of the many reasons the Braves are 13 1/2 games up with an 11-game win streak:
- Justin Upton has homered 4 times in his last 5 games, batting .409 (9-for-22) with 9 RBI in that span. Hitting off Strasburg in the first game of the Nats series, Justin Upton extended his hitting streak to 10 games.
- Rookie Julio Teheran has been lights out for the Braves all season, especially in his last 3 starts. In those starts (18 innings), Teheran has held a 3-0 record, an ERA of 1.00, 2 earned runs, 23 Ks, 5 walks, and has allowed his opponents a measly .177 average. His last 3 starts brought his season record to 8-5 with a 3.02 ERA.
- Chris Johnson, who continues to lead the league in hitting at .342, went 8-straight games with multiple hits. In those 8 games, he put up a .545 average, had 18 hits (in 35 ABs), 3 doubles, 1 homer and 7 RBIs.
- Closer Craig Kimbrel has converted 24-straight save opportunities and has allowed just 1 run on 15 hits with 12 walks & 46 strikeouts over that span. He has not blown a save since May 7th.
- Jason Heyward has been the most versatile player for the Braves this season, lending his talent to a depleated outfield as the center fielder and hitting lead off for a team without a prototypical lead off man. While hitting lead off this season, Heyward has hit for a .308 average with 12 hits (in 39 at-bats), a double, 2 homers and 9 RBIs. As any good lead off man should, he has walked frequently (7 times, bringing his OBP to .426). As both a right fielder and a center fielder this season, Heyward has a 1.000 fielding percentage.
There are certainly too many reasons to list for the Braves recent win streak and their incredible lead in the division. Much can be said about the defense of Andrelton Simmons that routinely saves runs for the Braves, the offensive production and pitching savvy of the Braves catching duo of Brian McCann and Evan Gattis, and the young core of starters that have been lead from the back of the rotation by Julio Teheran and Mike Minor.
In an uncharacteristically mild summer in Atlanta, the Braves are on fire. The hope of the team and its fans is that the momentum carries the team into the postseason and the bitter taste of last year’s Wild Card game debacle can finally be put to rest.
Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter@framethepitch.