The Braves are finally on a roll. They have won 7 of their last 9 games, and in turn they have finally peaked over .500 for the first time in nearly a month. The pitching is finally clicking for Atlanta, as they have allowed just 3 runs per game during this stretch. This statistic is also highly inflated by a spot start by Eric Stults, which saw Trevor Cahill relieve him later, in which they gave up 11 runs. While many were ready to label the Braves a noncompetitive team in a full rebuild, they are quietly in competition for playoff hopes. They are just 3.5 games back in the NL East, and 2 games back in the NL Wild Card race. All of the Starters, including Williams Perez in his first Major League start, impressed this week. Mike Foltynewicz had an unbelievable performance Sunday afternoon. Alex Wood and Julio Teheran appear to be finding their 2014 form. Shelby Miller has continued to impress in his breakout campaign. They even signed a solid veteran reliever in Nick Masset to help the bullpen woes. With starting third baseman Chris Johnson set to rejoin the club on Thursday, the Braves appear to be in better shape than many predicted. However, this week holds a huge challenge for the Braves’ offense. They are set to hit against Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Tim Hudson, Madison Bumgardner and Tim Lincecum this week on the West Coast. The Braves will have to continue their dynamic pitching to give our bats a chance to win. Let’s take a look at the standings, transactions and results from the past week:
5/19: Rays 5, Braves 3: W: Ramirez (2-1) L: Foltynewicz (2-1) SV: Boxberger (11)
5/20: Braves 2, Rays 1: W: Cunniff (2-0) L: Odorizzi (3-4) SV: Grilli (12)
5/21: Braves 10, Brewers 1: W: Teheran (4-1) L: Garza (2-6)
5/22: Brewers 11, Braves 0: W: Blazek (4-1) L: Stults (1-5)
5/23: Braves 3, Brewers 2: W: Avilan (2-0) L: Kintzler (0-1)
5/24: Braves 2, Brewers 1: W: Foltynewicz (3-1) L: Nelson (2-5) SV: Grilli (13)
5/18: Braves place INF Phil Gosselin (thumb) on 15-Day DL. Call up INF Adonis Garcia from AAA Gwinnett.
5/19: Braves sign RHP Nick Masset. Option RHP Cody Martin to AAA Gwinnett. DFA RHP John Cornely to make room on the 40-Man Roster.
5/20: Braves trade RHP John Cornely to Red Sox for cash considerations.
5/22: Braves call up LHP Ian Thomas. Option INF Adonis Garcia to AAA Gwinnett.
Before Cameron Maybin was traded to the Braves shortly before Opening Day, he found some video on Kevin Seitzer and his hitting philosophy. Maybin approached Padres hitting coach Mark Kotsay asking if they could work with a similar approach. Little did Maybin know that Seitzer would soon be his hitting coach. What a match they have been. Maybin has been red hot lately, and is riding a 9-game hitting streak. During this stretch, he has hit .355 with 6 RBI and 8 Runs. While he got off to a slow start, Maybin has found his home at the top end of our lineup and is on track to perhaps have the best season of his career if he continues to hit the ball well. His hot streak has skyrocketed his average up to .257. With our West Coast road trip coming up, hopefully Maybin can utilize his NL West experience to his advantage.
Simba has had a great year and it’s hard to knock the guy when he’s providing Gold Glove defense night in and night out. But the reality is he did have a rough week at the dish at the Ted. Simmons was just 3-for-21 during the short homestand, and it’s a shame to see his batting average fall into the .240s like it was last season after he got off to a good start at the plate. Simmons will look to bounce back on the upcoming road trip.
Prospect of the Week:
Mallex Smith makes the cut once again. He’s been absolutely dynamic in his first season of AA ball. This kid has simply been unbelievable. He was my favorite Braves prospect acquired this offseason, and he has more than shown fans why. This past week Smith hit 10-for-24 and swiped 7 bases. This brings Smith’s batting average up to .348 this season, good for best in the Southern League. His on base percentage is .398. You can’t really ask more of your leadoff man. Smith led the minors with 88 steals last season and now has a stolen base in 5 straight games. This kid is our future centerfielder and lead-off man, no doubt about it. My update Braves Top 25 Prospect List will be updated on June 1st, and expect a huge climb once again for Smith.
Also receiving consideration: Manny Banuelos and Braxton Davidson
(5/25-5/27): @Los Angeles Dodgers
(5/28-5/31): @San Francisco Giants