Thirteen games into the season, guess which team leads the National League in runs scored?
That’s right, the Atlanta Braves.
With a barrage of 65 runs in the last 11 games, the Braves have jumped over the Cardinals, while winning eight of those 11 games.
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The reasons are many. The Braves, you recall, were the last team to record a hit with runners in scoring position, starting the year 0-for-10. In the last seven games, the Braves are 22-for-64 with RISP and have scored 53 runs.
Secondly, Atlanta’s troubles with left-handers have lessened dramatically. In fact, the Braves have beaten four straight lefty starters. Much of the damage is being done by the Braves’ lefty bats of Freddie Freeman, Jayson Heyward and Brian Mc Cann.
Speaking of Freeman, at his current pace, he might be a shoo-in for the NL All Star team. After a day off at home, Freeman has been blazing hot since, blasting three home runs, three doubles and 10 RBI to go along with five runs scored over the last three games. Heyward has been great too, with a nine-game hitting streak — 14 hits during that span — plus two homers, six RBI, eight runs and four stolen bases.
Yes, it’s early. VERY early. But at first glance, Frank Wren’s decision to stand pat over the winter and bank on improved offensive performances appears to be the right one.
Mike Minor was brilliant in his third start of the year too — eight innings of two-run, five-hit baseball vs. Arizona. Limiting walks is a big key for Minor, and he’s walked but one batter in his last 15 1/3 innings. He, along with Beachy (7 IP, 3 H, 1 unearned run), Delgado (5 1/3, 7 hits, 3 ER), and Tommy Hanson (7 IP 5 hits) have stabilized the rotation over the last week, allowing plenty of rest for the Braves’ Big 3 in the bullpen. Needless to say, Jair Jurrjens has to step up, especially with Tim Hudson nearing his return on the next homestand. JJ has been rocked for 21 hits, 12 runs, and 5 HR in just 13 1/3 innings over three starts. In about 10 days, there will be six starters for five spots in the rotation. An interesting and difficult decision may be looming when we get back home.
Three more games to go in Arizona. Friday night it’s Beachy vs. Trevor Cahill. Saturday night it’s Tommy Hanson vs. Joe Saunders. We wrap up the series Sunday with Randall Delgado facing 21-game winner last year Ian Kennedy. The D’backs are really hurting without CF Chris Young, SS Stephen Drew, OF Justin Upton, and INF Geoff Blum, and have lost five of six. But baseball, as we know, shows no mercy. It was great seeing the Braves take care of business in game 1 with their 30th all-time win at Chase Field. Here’s to more of the same on Friday night.