BS Report: June 12th
The Braves have made it into first place – a tie with the Philadelphia Phillies at 38-29. They have won five games in a row. They are 8-2 in the month of June. And since manager Brian Snitker changed his lineup around and inserted Ronald Acuna, Jr. into the top spot of the batting order, the Braves are 20-9. Atlanta had fallen to two games under .500 on the night Snitker made that change. They had just been swept in Los Angeles by the Dodgers in a series that was horribly one-sided. Then they lost the first game of a series in Arizona in walk-off fashion in 10 innings. They did not look good. There was a part of me that was writing their obituary, even on May 10. But that change to put Acuna back at the top spot saved the season. Of course, it helped that five days later, Austin Riley joined the team and the presence of his power has also made a huge difference. The Braves are 17-8 with Riley in the lineup, and thankfully, he’s fallen into a bit of a slump. That’s good news, cause if it hadn’t come back down to earth we may have wanted to put a red cape on him. The Braves have played great baseball to catch the Phillies and this weekend they will come to town, for a series that will feel like a pennant-stretch three-game set. The Braves are much different than the team that got swept in Philadelphia to start the season. The bullpen is completely different. Acuna is now at the top of the order and Riley is in the lineup. And now, the Braves have a confidence that was not present in the opening series in Phily. This team just looks different now. It has a swagger that good teams have, that it had last season when it won the division. They need to go into this series with the Phillies feeling as confident as they did last year when they won. And remember, next Friday, the Braves will get another new player as Dallas Keuchel will join the team. The starter was signed last Friday, and he’ll get another start in the minor leagues to prepare for his debut next week. Keuchel will make a huge difference, and don’t discount the move to put Kevin Gausman in the bullpen. When he gets back from this phantom injury they gave him, I think he’ll thrive as a reliever. Other pitchers, like Wade Davis and Andrew Miller, went from being mediocre starting pitchers to dominant relievers. I wouldn’t be shocked if this happened to Gausman, either. So, the Braves are in great shape. We know they are eventually going to get a closer and more relievers to help the bullpen. And the rotation will be better with Keuchel. The Phillies may be shocked when they see this difference Braves team this weekend, and let’s hope they get repaid for their sweep in late-March. The Braves have a great mix of young stars and solid veterans. – This is going to be a fun summer watching a team that – all of a sudden – looks like it could be the best Braves team this decade.