Atlanta Braves in Midst of Power Surge
Much of the buzz surrounding the Atlanta Braves for the last week has centered around the signing of starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel. While Keuchel has been getting game-ready in the minors, the Braves find themselves in midst of a power surge. Heading into Wednesday night’s game with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Braves are on a five-game winning streak. In those five games, they have slugged 13 home runs. In each of their last two games, they have hit five home runs.
The @Braves made some recent history with two sets of back-to-back home runs in the same inning.
The last time it happened was on June 8, 1965. pic.twitter.com/XDMAaSyUZV
— FOX Sports: Braves (@FOXSportsBraves) June 12, 2019
Power Up and Down the Lineup
Through 67 games, the Braves have pounded 99 home runs — fifth best in the National League. Eleven different players have hit home runs for the team. Freddie Freeman leads the way with 18 home runs and is among five players with nine or more long balls.
In the first two games of their series with the Pirates, six different Braves have hit home runs. Ozzie Albies, Brian McCann, and Nick Markakis each have multiple home runs in those two contests. McCann commented about the depth of the lineup after Tuesday night’s win, telling Steve Hummer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “We’re tough to get through on a nightly basis, from top to bottom. We showed it again tonight.”
Josh Donaldson was added in the off-season and was expected to be a power-hitting presence in the middle of the lineup. Thus far, he only has nine home runs. Several other players have stepped up and contributed, however. Less than halfway through the season, Dansby Swanson has already gone deep 13 times. All of last season he only hit 14 home runs.
Another welcome addition to the line up has been Austin Riley. Riley was hitting so well in Gwinnett when Ender Inciarte was sidelined that the Braves were forced to call him up and plug him into the starting outfield. Riley has not disappointed. He has cooled off a bit recently but still has hit nine home runs and driven in 26 runs.
Division Battle Looms This Weekend
The power surge comes at a good time. After a rocky start, the Braves have clawed their way into a tie with the Philadelphia Phillies in the N.L. East. The rivals faced off to open the season in Philadelphia. The Braves sputtered out of the gates and were swept in the three-game series.
The Braves roster looks drastically different than it did in late March. Saddled with injuries in the starting rotation, Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright started games two and three. After some early struggles, both young prospects are now in the minors. That doesn’t mean that the Braves’ pitching staff is without questions. Kevin Gausman has been sidelined, and Mike Foltynewicz has not regained the form that led to his breakout 2018 season.
A.J. Minter has returned after a stint in the minors and appears to have worked out his issues. He has a renewed confidence in his changeup and hopes to stabilize the Braves’ shaky bullpen. Sean Newcomb has pitched well out of the bullpen lately but will join the rotation this weekend against the Phillies. Whether the outing is a spot start or a long term arrangement will likely hinge on how well the lefty fares this weekend.
While the prospect-laden pitching staff works out their kinks, the Braves offense is proving to be plenty potent enough to carry the team for extended stretches. A series win this weekend at SunTrust Park would be a huge confidence builder for the young team.
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