I don’t know about you, but I had a good weekend. I spent some time with my dog, knocked out some wedding planning, and, probably most excitingly (don’t tell my fiancée), saw the Braves take down the Big Bad Dodgers.
The Braves won a critical series against Los Angeles this weekend, potentially giving us a preview of what we could see this October.
As you very well know, the Braves have had their hangups against the boys in blue. They effectively shut us down the last two times we made it to October, silencing any dreams of postseason success equivalent to that of the 90’s Braves.
This weekend shined some light on the possibility that Atlanta has improved enough to take down the seemingly untouchable Dodgers and have a legitimate shot at flying through the playoffs.
I would be remiss, also, if I didn’t mention that this weekend’s series against Los Angeles is the last series win at home since 2013; and only the second won by the Braves in the last eleven years.
*record scratch, freeze frame*
You read that right. It’s a sign of progress and talent moving in the right direction.
Anyway, the series win puts the Braves 5.5 games ahead of the Nationals in the east. There’s still plenty of baseball left to be played, but a celebration of the weekend’s success is more than earned.
What exactly led the Braves to victory, though? And what could the Braves do to get a series sweep? Well, let’s see.
What Went Right
If there’s one thing the Braves have lacked against the Dodgers, it’s been offensive productivity.
Atlanta’s record vs. the Dodgers bumps up to 10-21 after this weekend’s success, dating back to 2015. The offensive blunders kept us from moving farther than the division series against the beasts from Los Angeles. The Braves seemed shaken, inexperienced and just plain not ready.
This weekend, though, they looked like they found their stride.
The Braves outscored the Dodgers 9-6 in the last two days, with big homers from Donaldson and Duvall, who was briefly sent down to AAA following the Hechavarría signing.
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) August 18, 2019
Adeiny, by the way, wasted no time following his signing, going 3-6 with a double and an RBI in the big wins against LA.
The bats found their life against the dangerous southpaws, showing proof of improvement and potential to carry the Braves through the toughest part of the season.
Following the Trade Deadline, our acquisitions were proving more detrimental than beneficial.
Shane Greene entered game with 11.25 ERA.
He officially allowed 2 runs in one-third of inning. So his ERA is now 14.55.
— Jeff Schultz (@JeffSchultzATL) August 14, 2019
Ouch. Hate to see that.
Let’s pretend for a second that this doesn’t exist (if you’re me, you’re regularly doing that).
Newly acquired relievers Shane Greene and Mark Melancon were perfect this weekend, posting a combined five strikeouts in four innings, earning Melancon two well-earned saves and shaving ERAs to 2.38 and 4.02, respectively.
If we see this type of performance at a consistent basis, then we can keep our hopes on the high side leading up to the end of the season.
The Boy from Venezuela (part 1)
I don’t even need to explain this one. Just watch.
💪 ORTEGA SLAM 💪
— FOX Sports: Braves (@FOXSportsBraves) August 18, 2019
You know what? I’m still hype.
Rafael Ortega came up from AAA on August 13th after an absolute tear through the minors. That seems to be a consistent theme with Braves prospects, and let me tell you, I am NOT complaining.
Anyway, the Braves saw themselves down 3-1 in the bottom of the 6th, with Dodgers phenom Dustin May dealing through the innings.
Things are looking a tad bleak, as it seems like we’re going to be handed another dreaded series loss.
His first big league grand slam and only second career home run could not have come at a better time. The Braves rode this monstrous bomb all the way to the W Sunday afternoon, pushing them into the lighter side of their schedule on a high note.
What Went Wrong
Atlanta’s biggest crutch continues to be their pitching staff.
Now, I know it sounds contradictory to bag on the staff right after praising the bullpen, but keep in mind, I’m analyzing the staff as a whole.
Atlanta’s rotation, while improving, continues to get roughed up by the big bats in pressure situations. Sean Newcomb blew his second save of the season with Jerry Blevins giving up three right behind him, turning a 3-2 lead into an 8-3 deficit in a matter of two innings.
If the Braves expect a legitimate push through October, then performances like this cannot happen.
Newk and Blevins haven’t been producing like this all season, sitting at a 3.54 and 3.91 ERA respectively, so Saturday night’s slip up appears to be no more than an isolated incident. Especially given Newk’s stellar performance out of the pen this season.
Still, though, improvements and new approaches need to be made.
The Boy from Venezuela (part 2)
I don’t think anyone saw this coming. I certainly didn’t.
Ronald Acuña Jr. has been taken out of the biggest game yet for watching a potential HR turned single. This will be a GOOD LESSON for a young player with TONS of talent. Snitker Cares about Ñ, THE TEAM & sends a message to everyone about playing the game the right way. #ChopOn pic.twitter.com/ysPYnUczfE
— Paul Byrd (@PaulByrd36) August 18, 2019
Ronnie was removed from the game in the 5th inning for not running out a base hit.
Personally, I thought Acuna would be the last person to get taken out of a game for lack of hustle. I mean, this kid is the embodiment of hustle and hard work. I guess it can happen to anyone.
The loss of possibly the most electric player in baseball made an impact on the Braves on Sunday. Plenty of moments could’ve been turned around if Ronnie would’ve stayed in the game.
At the end of the day, though, the Braves took home the win and Ronnie learned a valuable lesson. And he handled it like a champ.
"There's no excuse for it. I just kind of took it and said 'Of course.' He's the manager, I'm the player and I'll respect his decisions."
— Ronald Acuña Jr. on being pulled from the game in the fourth inning. pic.twitter.com/dR8Y9RDdMK
— FOX Sports: Braves (@FOXSportsBraves) August 18, 2019
Nothing but respect for this kid. Yet another reason to love him.
The Braves enter a mixed bag of a series, lined with two division rivals and a couple of interleague out-of-towners. These next few games could easily set the tone for the rest of the season. Stay tuned in to SportsTalkATL for all your Braves news, analysis and highlights.