Braves bats finally come to life
The Atlanta Braves’ offensive numbers are impressive, despite scoring a combined seven runs in the final two games against the Arizona Diamondbacks this weekend.
Here’s a look at what the Braves have done well offensively through the first 16 games of 2012.
Scoring in bunches
Four games into this season, it didn’t look like anything had changed from the end of 2011. The Braves started 0-4 and scored only 11 runs in a three-game sweep by the Mets and a loss at Houston. Fans were clamoring for changes, saying it was just more of the same from a team that didn’t make many in the offseason.
Then the Braves started hitting. They scored 10 against the Brewers and then averaged more than 10 runs in four consecutive wins over the Mets and Diamondbacks. The Braves had a combined 54 hits in their four victories over Mets and Diamondbacks on April 17-20.
• Fast fact: The Braves scored 87 runs last September. They’ve already scored 91 runs in 16 games in 2012, second most in the majors, behind only the Rangers, who have 94.
Leadoff man leading the way
The Braves started scoring when Michael Bourn began hitting and getting on base. Bourn hit .125 on the season-opening six-game road trip, but had two hits in the home opener against Milwaukee and hasn’t stopped hitting. He has hit in nine of the past 10 games with 10 runs and six steals in that span. Bourn’s on-base percentage has rocketed from .125 on April 11 to .403 and he’s had at least two hits in each of the past five games.
• Fast fact: Bourn is ninth in the NL in hitting at .338 and is tied with teammate Freddie Freeman and Chicago’s David DeJesus for sixth with 12 runs scored.
Freeman looked lost on April 15. His teammates were flourishing, but he had just gone hitless in 11 at-bats in a three-game sweep of the Brewers, despite hitting the ball hard that day. He sat out of the Braves’ 6-1 loss to the Mets on April 16, and came back with a two-hit, two-RBI game the next day. He hasn’t slowed down since, hitting .478 with three homers and 14 RBIs in six games last week.
“When I hit those line drives (on April 15), that’s when I started getting some confidence,” Freeman said. “I was able to hit the ball hard the other way. I’ve been working hard with (hitting coaches Greg) Walker and Fletch (Scott Fletcher), and it’s starting to pay off.”
• Fast fact: Freeman is tied for third in the NL with a team-leading 15 RBIs and is tied for fifth with six doubles.
Heyward back to ‘Say-Hey Kid’
So far, so good for Jason Heyward. He was looking for a rebound after his injury-marred 2011 season, and he’s played well, hitting righties and lefties and running the bases. He’s already tied his career high with a 10-game hitting streak – which ended Saturday – and he’s hitting .309 with two home runs and eight RBIs while batting up and down the lineup. Heyward is hitting .304 against lefties and .313 against right-handers.
• Fast fact: He already has stolen five bases and is just six away from tying his career high of 11, set his rookie season. Heyward stole nine last year.
Giving teams the run around
The Braves expected Bourn to provide a spark on the bases, and he’s done exactly that. As their first legitimate leadoff hitter since Rafael Furcal in 2005, Bourn is third in the NL with seven steals. Heyward has five steals without being caught, and the Braves as a team are tied for fifth in the NL with 14 steals. On a pace of nearly one steal a game, the Braves should easily surpass last year’s total of 77 stolen bases.
• Fast fact: A Brave hasn’t stolen more than 22 bases in a season since Furcal had 46 steals in 2005. Bourn had 22 in 53 games with the Braves in 2011.
Vets lending a hand
Even though it seems younger players are carrying the Braves, veterans Brian McCann, Dan Uggla and Chipper Jones have had a part in the heroics. McCann hit in nine of 10 games and tied his career high with four RBIs in the home opener. Uggla had four homers at this point last year, but he was hitting .185. He’s hit in five straight games and is at .242 with two home runs and eight RBIs in 2012. Jones homered in his first game off the DL and then in his first home game. He’s hitting .276 with two home runs and eight RBIs.
• Fast fact: Jones is scheduled to be in the lineup on Tuesday, his 40th birthday. He went 2-for-3 with two RBIs against the Giants on his 39th birthday.