The team that 10 days ago couldn’t win three games in a row just won its ninth straight, in a 4-2 victory over the Pirates. The Braves jumped to a four run lead, Spencer Strider went 5 and 2/3 scoreless innings, Jackson Turner (who was not as hot as a pepper sprout) gave up two runs in the 8th, but Minter and Jansen closed it out for the victory.
For the second Friday in a row I went out to dinner and missed the broadcast of the Braves game. Who knew I’d have such a social life when I agreed to do Friday recaps? And what is this old guy doing out on the town past 10:30? Well, the events were with my family, including my granddaughters, and I’m in California, so I was only out until 7:30. I got in my car just as the game was over. But from what I can tell, this one followed the “boring” formula from the night before: jump to an early lead, count on the starting pitcher to hold them in check, and let the league’s best bullpen finish them off. If this is boring, I’ll be happy to be bored the rest of the season.
Even though I didn’t watch the game, I’m allowed to have opinions. Here are a few of them:
Ronald Acuña, Jr., is the most exciting, and for my money, the best player in the league. He had two more hits—a double off the wall and a grounder to short that he beat out for a single. With him in the lineup, this team is as good as any team in the league, including the Dodgers. (I’m in LA for the month; everyone here wears a Dodgers cap, which come in many colors beyond Dodger Blue. I’ve been wearing my vintage 1974 Braves cap; I assume no one here even knows what it is.)
Dansby Swanson is in the midst of one of those hot streaks that make him look like an elite shortstop. He went 3 for 4, including a two run homer that started the scoring in the third inning. As you know, he is a free agent at the end of this season. I had been thinking AA should try to sign one of the elite free agents who will be available this offseason—Turner, Correa, Bogaerts (possibly). But I’m coming around to the idea that Dansby is not much below that level, and if we can lock him up before he hits free agency, he’s a guy you can be happy to have for several more years. I really like his defense, his baserunning, and his work ethic. If his bat can be what it’s been for the last six weeks for the next several years, he’s easily the best shortstop in Atlanta history. But of course he could turn around and be the guy we saw in April this year, who looked more like Pat Rockett or Craig Robinson than Jeff Blauser or Rafael Furcal. We already have Albies, Olson, and Riley under control (BTW, let’s extend Austin while we’re at it), and with Swanson they could have an elite infield for a long time to come.
Speaking of elite, Michael Harris II is for real and he is here to stay. He is the youngest player in MLB right now and as you know he has barely played above A ball, so we know there will be growing pains and adjustments ahead. I’m still surprised they called him up this early, but he is a star in the making. He went 2 for 3 with a double walk and scored two runs. It’s pretty exciting to see him on base in front of Ronald.
Spencer Strider will also have growing pains and adjustments to make, but so far you’ve got to love what he is doing. In his third start, he went 5 2/3 scoreless innings, struck out 8 and walked only one. He threw 66 strikes in 92 pitches. They made the right call in plugging him into the rotation. That is where he can provide the most value (and the other guys they tried were clearly not ready).
A nine game winning streak tends to generate irrational exuberance. When it was going bad, I’m the guy who kept reminding everyone that it’s a long season, and things can always turn around. I need to follow my own counsel and realize that there are many twists and turns ahead. Still, this team is finally playing as it is capable. When they do that, they are as good as anyone.
I know the opposition the last ten days has been bottom feeders (aren’t you glad you’re not a Pirates or A’s fan?). The teams the next ten days aren’t any better. The Braves are 9 for 9 in June so far. Why not win about 10 of the next 12 before the Dodgers and a certain first baseman hit town toward the end of the month?
But the wise ones know you can only win one at a time. The Braves go for ten straight on Saturday behind Charlie Morton. I think Morton can still pitch, but Charlie (you ever notice how Peter Moylan and Brian Jordan both pronounce his name “Chollie”) needs to start showing he’s still got it. No time like the present to turn it around.