Three Cuts: Braves' 30-plus hitters delivering in mass; Julio Teheran's a Road All-Star
While the Braves were denied a sweep in Miami, the series still provided more feel-good moments that most of the last two weeks combined.
After being outscored 49-17 over a six-game span that included one game vs. the Mets, three against the Cardinals and two with the Astros, Atlanta totaled 12 runs and put together -- outside of one R.A. Dickey mistake -- its most dominant run of starting pitching since its series in Milwaukee to end April.
And those vibes couldn't come at a better time with the Braves facing the Blue Jays in a four-game, two-city series beginning Monday. Toronto has come alive, averaging nearly six runs over its three games, including two seven-run days vs. the Mariners and eight against the Indians.
From thriving veteran bats to Julio Teheran's epic road/home splits and Dansby Swanson's hot streak, here's a look at the week that was for the Braves.
1. Age ain't nothing but a number ... just ask these Braves hitters
More than 20 years after its release, Aaliyah's anthem could serve as exactly that for Atlanta's veterans.
Granted, with an average age of 30.4 -- giving the Braves the oldest roster in the majors -- it stands to reason that they received some of this season's biggest collective contributions from players ages 31 to 35. But it's been about more than just quantity based on the sheer number of aging players on this roster.
Especially with 30-somethings like Matt Kemp, Tyler Flowers, Nick Markakis and Brandon Phillips.
Kemp's 13-game hitting streak, which came to an end Sunday in Miami, gave Atlanta three players to have double-digit streaks this season, a mark that is only equaled by the Cubs and Mariners.
The Braves, though, saw all three of those runs come from players past 31 years of age in Kemp (32), Phillips (35 with a 13-game streak) and Markakis (33 with a 10-gamer). Chicago had just one player in that age bracket deliver one of their streaks in 35-year-old Ben Zobrist and the same with the Mariners with Nelson Cruz, 36.
It gets more impressive considering catcher Tyler Flowers (31) has the game's highest on-base percentage from players 31-35 with at least 60 plate appearances at .470, is third in average at .353 and eighth in wRC+ (149), just ahead of former MVP Joey Votto (147).
They've all helped Atlanta go into Sunday third in the majors with 139 hits from players 31-35, despite having the seventh-most at-bats (501), a whopping 195 behind the Orioles, who have 30 more hits than the Braves for their MLB-best 169.
Granted, the Braves' are middle of the road in wRC+ from their 31 to 35s at 99 (14th) and they have a collective minus-6.3 offensive WAR, but this group ranks in the top six in runs (59) and RBI (69) with Kemp (0.6), Flowers (0.8) and Markakis (0.7) all in the top 25 in offensive WAR.
While Flowers' consistency has been a surprise -- even after last year's .357 OBP -- the headliner Kemp continues to deliver at a vintage rate with a 152 wRC+. The last time that figure was that high for Kemp was 2011's 168, back when he was in an MVP war with Ryan Braun.
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2. Julio Teheran's an All-Star on the road, but at home is another story
The ability of the Cardinals' Lance Lynn and Nationals' Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg to put up dominant starts at SunTrust Park went against Dickey's comments that the Braves' new home is favoring hitters.
So too did Bartolo Colon's issues in Houston -- he was tagged for eight runs in 5 2/3 -- but once Atlanta hit South Beach, the script was flipped.
Dickey, who had a 5.25 ERA in his two previous starts against the Mets and Cardinals, was dominant until giving up a three-run homer in the seventh, while Mike Foltynewicz followed one of the worst outings of his career vs. St. Louis (seven earned runs in four innings) by allowing one run in six innings.
As much as that start was a positive sign for Foltynewicz in his development, what we saw out of Julio Teheran continued what's been a season-plus trend as he's been an All-Star on the road.
But at home?
At home since the start of the 2016 season, Teheran has a 4.34 ERA -- including an 8.14 in four starts at SunTrust -- compared to 2.21 on the road -- that's at 0.71 this year in four starts. That home ERA ranks 60th in MLB in that span, while his road ERA is fourth-best, better than the likes of Clayton Kershaw (2.40), Noah Syndergaard (2.81) and Chris Sale (2.81).
Saturday night was more of the same as Teheran followed his worst career game vs. the Mets -- six runs allowed over six innings -- and a four-earned-run night against the Cardinals by allowing three hits over six scoreless innings in Miami.
Teheran's next scheduled start is Thursday in Atlanta against the Blue Jays. He has a 6.60 ERA in three starts against them, but has fared well vs. Toronto's current lineup with a .2-5 batting average against, and has kept the rejuvenated Jose Bautista hitless in seven at-bats.
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3. Dansby Swanson nearing a breakthrough?
The Braves' rookie shortstop went into Sunday with one number that underscores how much bad luck he's had to start his first full season in the majors. A .217 batting average on balls in play was better than just 12 qualified players, and a big reason why Dansby Swanson entered last Saturday's game against the Cardinals hitting just .150.
But in Sunday's sixth inning in Miami, Swanson singled on a line drive to right field off Justin Nicolino, extending his hitting streak to six games. He still has a long ways to go to get that average over the Mendoza Line, with his average sitting at .179 on the season, but over the last five games he's boasting a .400-plus BABIP and hit .250 in that span.
Maybe the most telling at-bat of Swanson's weekend, and potentially this hit streak, came in the fourth inning in Saturday's 3-1 victory.
Facing a 2-2 count with two outs against Edinson Volquez, Swanson singled on a line drive to center to drive in Markakis, and what made it so key was how much he's struggled in similar situations. Swanson went into that matchup hitting 5 for 66 (.076) in two-out counts (his worst) and struck out 34 times.
It's a marginal improvement, but given that Swanson is being given the opportunity to work through his issues at the MLB level -- and with the added weight of carrying the label as preseason National League Rookie of the Year favorite -- it's a more than positive sign.