Flashback to August 7th, the Braves sat an arm’s length away from first place in the NL East. With exactly one-third of the season remaining, they prepared for a manager’s worst nightmare, twenty-two games over a twenty day period. The stretch included a stop in three different cities and four opponents that were also jockeying for playoff position. It was a test that could have severely dampened the baby Braves hope at returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Instead, Atlanta illustrated their youthful exuberance, using the trip as an opportunity rather than a grind.
It began with the bats. The Braves offense was able to lift the team to a critical series win over the Brewers, scoring twenty-two runs in three games. They kept sizzling over a four-game drubbing of the Marlins, that ignited a rivalry that will continue for years to come. Ronald Acuña Jr. was infamously plunked by Jose Urena on a high and tight 97-mph fastball. Acuña had homered in five straight games, but unfortunately, was forced to leave the game after the incident. The shenanigans did not prevent the Braves from winning their fifth straight game, however, scoring thirty runs over four games against the Fish.
The only real hiccup came in a four-game homestead against the streaking Rockies. Despite scoring first in every game of the series, Atlanta was unable to come up with a single win, in large part because of a struggling bullpen. The Braves blew two saves, one of which came after they held a 3-0 lead in the ninth with two outs. It was a peculiar series that brought the Braves back down to earth. It was also the point where the Atlanta offense began to quiet down, while the starting rotation caught fire.
Since the conclusion of the Rockies series, no Braves starter has allowed more than a single run. That seven-game stretch includes three Braves shutouts, something they had not done since June 16th against the Padres. The key difference has to be Kevin Gausman. He is 4-1 with a 1.69 ERA since moving to the National League. And most importantly, he takes even more pressure off of veterans like Julio Teheran and Anibal Sanchez.
Yesterday’s 4-0 win over the Marlins put the Braves at an impressive 13-9 over the last twenty days. On August 7th, they were 1.5 games back of the Philadelphia Phillies. Now, they are three games up and within chasing distance of the Chicago Cubs for the National League’s best record.
If there were still some doubts regarding the legitimacy of the Braves, they were likely put to rest over the month of August. Atlanta finally has a day off today before they begin a nine-game homestand that consists of two games with the Rays, a makeup game versus Chicago and two three-game sets against the Pirates and the Red Sox. Considering the number of quality teams the Braves have remaining or their schedule, including seven of their final ten games coming against Philadelphia, the race for the East is far from over. But if the last twenty days showed you anything, these Braves are ready for a grind.