• Exclusives

    Braves win 7th straight, hope to take momentum on road

    While Shelby Miller of the Cardinals has been the talk of the NL Rookie of the Year race, Julio Teheran is asking voters to give him a chance.

    While Shelby Miller of the Cardinals has been the talk of the NL Rookie of the Year race, Julio Teheran is asking voters to give him a chance.

    In the last 7 games, the Braves have put on a show for all of baseball. With their offense, defense and pitching firing on all cylinders, the Braves have been ridiculously good. In the 7 games of the home stand, they outscored opponents 51 to 16 and notched 84 hits. Game 3 of the series marked the first time the Braves have scored at least 9 runs in 3 consecutive games since 4 straight in April of 2012. They are now 11 1/2 games up in the NL East and on pace for 95 wins.

    Julio Teheran was nothing short of spectacular against the Rockies. His 11 strikeouts matched his career high thrown against the Pirates on June 5th. Teheran finished his start with 5 innings pitched, 5 hits and an earned run in 103 pitches.

    Teheran wasn’t the only pitcher with an outstanding start against Colorado. Mike Minor pitched 7 innings against the Rockies, allowing only 2 hits, no runs and striking out 6. Teheran and Minor have led Braves pitching this season from the back of the rotation.

    Reliever Luis Avilan remains untouchable. Despite a run crossing the plate, charged to the pitcher before him, Avilan held his streak of not allowing a run in tact last night. He now hasn’t allowed a run in his last 29 appearances. His ERA on the season is down to 1.22.

    One last note on pitching during the series: Brandon Beachy’s season debut was, well, rocky. Beachy came out after allowing 8 hits, 6 runs, 1 walk and 5 K’s in 3 2/3 innings of work. It took him 84 pitches to reach the 3 2/3 mark. He was then picked up by a solid bullpen effort that included David Carpenter retiring 7 straight, another scoreless frame by Luis Avilan and Scott Downs’ first appearance in a Braves’ uniform. Scott Downs walked away with the win.

    Perhaps even more important than pitching the the series and the home stand was the consistent, dominant performance by the offense.

    In the final game of the series, Chris Johnson went 3-for-5, It marked Chris Johnson’s 10th three-hit game of the season, his 36th multi-hit game of 2013 and his 7th consecutive multi-hit game.. His average is now .346 and continues to lead the National League. Over his last 33 games, Chris Johnson is hitting .388 (50-for-129) with 20 runs scored, 2 dingers & 17 RBIs.

    The other player in the trade that brought Chris Johnson to Atlanta, trade headliner Justin Upton, appears to be coming out of a slump. In the final game of the series, Upton recorded his 6th career multi-homer game with 2 blasts. It was his 2nd multi-homer game with Atlanta, his 1st came April 6th against the Cubs.

    Andrelton Simmons did something unusual in the final game of the series–he struck out. Despite being on a team of notorious strikeouts, Simmons has been one of the most difficult players in the big leagues to strike out. His streak of’ 61 straight at-bats ended in game 4. Simmons’ previous strikeout came in the bottom of the 1st inning on July 14th. The whiz kid at shortstop can be allowed that strikeout given his heroics in game 2 when he hit the game ending triple, the first by the Braves since 1953.

    One of the biggest stories of the season for the Braves is their search for a leadoff man. For several years, the Braves have not had a prototypical leadoff hitter. With B.J. Upton joining the club, they thought he might be able to leadoff, but given his season-long slump, that didn’t pan out. Simmons isn’t a leadoff hitter, either. However, Fredi Gonzalez took a chance and plugged Jason Heyward into the leadoff spot. Probably the largest leadoff hitter in the league, Heyward may stick out, but so far the results have been impressive. Since he began leading off, Heyward has hit .296 (8-for-27) with 2 homers & 7 RBIs. Heyward homered 3 times on the 7-game homestand, 2 of them from the leadoff spot.

    BRAVES MAKE TRIP TO STADIUM OF NOT-SO-BROTHERLY LOVE…

    As the Braves head to Philadelphia for a 3-game series against the Phillies, they hope to take some of their home stand momentum on the road. They have been much better at home than on the road, not helped by the fact that they spent much of the first month of baseball on the road with one of the toughest schedules in baseball. Holding their 11 1/2 game lead in the division will be a top priority for the Braves.

    In injury news, B.J. Upton began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett. In 6 innings in centerfield,  he went 3-for-4 with 2 doubles, including a double in his 1st at-bat, 3 runs and 2 RBIs. Without B.J., the Braves have gone 10-5 and in their previous 15 with B.J., they went 8-7. Oddly enough, they had fewer strikeouts as a team when B.J. was with them for those 15 games. Baseball cannot be predicted.

    Another injured outfielder that is making strides in his rehab is Jordan Schafer who could be seen running the bases before the games against the Rockies. He has been able to run a lot more aggressively in the last few days and should be healthy enough to begin a rehab assignment soon.

    Brian McCann will be an important story for the Braves in August. In his 22 games in the month of July, Mac hit .337 with 6 doubles and 6 homers. If he can continue on this pace and stay healthy, this will be huge for the Braves who missed his bat a great deal last August when he finished the season with a .181 average and a soon-to-be surgically repaired shoulder.

    Though the Braves technically carry 3 catchers with McCann, Laird and Gattis, the Braves were without one against Colorado. Laird has been unavailable to play few days, he’s on pain medication trying to pass a kidney stone that had him in hospital Sunday. Atlanta will have all 3 once again available in Philly.

    Friday night’s series opener at Citizens Bank Park will pit Medlen (7-10, 3.74) vs. Martin (0-0, -.–). Saturday’s nationally broadcast game on FOX will feature Beachy (0-0, 17.18) vs. TBD. Sunday’s series finale on ESPN will feature Wood (1-2, 3.51) vs. Lannan (3-4, 4.10).

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