Like they do seemingly every year, the Braves are off to a lackadaisical start to the season. At 6-7, they certainly aren’t the Philadelphia Phillies bad, but coming off a championship, you begin to expect a bit more from this club. Some believe this could be the beginning of an extended World Series hangover, but count me out of that party. Several reasons point to a winning run for the Braves being right around the corner.
Rotation beginning to work itself out
There’s no debating whether the shortened Spring Training had an effect on the Braves. Guys like Ian Anderson only pitched eight live innings before the season started; there’s no way they should have been expected to go five-plus innings in their first couple of starts. On top of that, the Braves also had to play 14 games in 14 days to begin the season, which included a West Coast road trip. That’s brutal scheduling, and it caused Brian Snitker to turn to a six-man rotation.
With this stretch out of the way, things should begin to look much more promising for a group of starting pitchers that I have a lot of faith in. We saw Max Fried turn in a gem last night, which should be much closer to the norm for the Braves rotation moving forward as they get back into rhythm.
The schedule itself becomes more manageable
If the Braves can overcome the Dodgers this afternoon, they will leave the West Coast with a 4-3 record. Even for championship-caliber baseball teams, that’s really difficult to do, especially when Chavez Ravine is involved, a place where the Braves haven’t won a series since 2011! That means Atlanta is playing better baseball right now than their overall record might indicate, and they have a pretty manageable nine games coming up, playing six at home against the Cubs and Marlins before a three-game series on the road versus the struggling Rangers.
Ronald Acuna’s return
This one is the most vital. Ronald Acuna made his return to the diamond last night in Gwinnett and looked a lot like the guy who would have cruised to the NL MVP award had he not suffered a torn ACL last July. In his second at-bat, he came just a couple of feet from smashing an opposite field homer. The result was a double, as Acuna finished 1-for-3 on the night while playing five innings in right field, which might be the most notable aspect as far as his recovery goes. The Braves seem to have a plan in place for him to return in early May, but I think that’s a whole bunch of malarkey. If Acuna continues to hit the ball well without any setbacks, there’s no reason he won’t be called up before then. It doesn’t do his injury any favors to play in Gwinnett over Atlanta.
The bottom of the order can’t hit this bad forever
The lineup without Acuna isn’t the best in the majors, but it is still one of the better lineups in the league. Though, you wouldn’t know that after the first couple of weeks because the bottom of the Braves order has been putrid. Dansby Swanson is a walking strikeout, Adam Duvall has yet to hit a homer, and Eddie Rosario and Alex Dickerson can’t buy a hit. It’s unfortunate because the top of the order is scorching hot; however, that doesn’t do the team much good when nobody is on base in front of them. Eventually, 6-9 in the order will start carrying their weight like they are capable. When that happens, the floodgates should open.
Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire
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