Now that's more like it! The Braves finished up their West Coast road trip going 5-1 over their last 6 games, including a sweep of the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants. The team now sits in 3rd place in the division with a .500 record, 4 games back of the Phillies.
The past week included some dominant pitching performances and an energized offense. The Braves averaged an even 6 runs per game over the past week, nearly 3 runs more than they were averaging following their series loss at the hands of the Dodgers. But drilling down into the numbers, Atlanta only hit a paltry .227 with an anemic .295 OBP during those 6 games, even a few ticks below their season averages. But it was the team's performance with runners in scoring position that made the difference. They hit a scorching .365 with RISP this past week, a significant departure from their woes in those situations last season. Braves hitters also drove in 16 runs with 2 outs over the week, a number that represents nearly 45% of their runs scored during the 6 games.
The upcoming week will see the Cardinals and Brewers visit Turner Field. At a combined 25-23, the two NL Central teams will help us fans see if the team has turned a corner or if they simply took advantage of a couple scuffling teams out west. So, without further ado, here are this week's (6 games) "Cheers and Jeers"....
Jason Heyward - After a rough previous week, J-Hey hit the lights out of the ball over his past 6 games. His torrid .423/.483/.692 line for the week included 11 hits (2 HR) and 6 RBI. While I think his pitch selection is still off a bit, he's putting a much better swing on the balls he decides to go after. More of his grounders are going up the middle and he's driving some pitches to the opposite field. The sophomore slugger is most effective at the plate when he's using all parts of the field.
Chipper Jones - The 39-year old veteran is already off to an All-Star type campaign. Chipper hit .333/.391/.714 with 1 HR and an impressive 9 RBI during the week. His 21 RBI on the season gave him the second highest total in the majors headed into play on Thursday, just two behind Price Fielder's MLB-leading total. The week also included Jones' 500th career double (becoming just the 52nd player ever to reach that total), while his 1,510th RBI (now at 1,512) moved him past the legendary Mickey Mantle on the career list.
Starting Pitching - For how well the offense scored runs this past week, the team's success was arguably due just as much in part to the team's starting pitching. The 6 starts (Tommy Hanson x 2) included a Jair Jurrjens complete game and a Tim Hudson 8.2 IP performance. The rotation went 4-0 with a minuscule 1.85 ERA, allowing only 9 ER over 43.2 IP, while striking out 40 to just 8 walks. No starter allowed more than 2 ER in an outing.
Cory Gearrin - The rookie reliever was called up to Atlanta last week and was impressive in his first major-league appearances. Over 2 games, Gearrin threw 3 IP while striking out 3 and putting up a perfect 0 R, 0 H and 0 BB line. The side-armer is sneaky quick and has a lot of movement on his pitches. It will be interesting to see where he ends-up when Peter Moylan returns from the DL in 7-10 days, though a trip back to Gwinnett would seem to be the likely destination.
Honorable Mention: David Ross (2-8, 2 HR, 4 RBI)
Dan Uggla - Mr. Uggla might as well buy stock in the "Jeers" list as the second baseman finds himself here again. His .130/.231/.261 line for the week was actually worse than the season numbers he had been putting up. He had just 3 hits (1 HR) in 23 AB, struck out 5 times and even chipped in an error in the field for good measure. It's already a month into the season and I'm really ready for his to start earning even just a part of the $9 million salary he's receiving this season.
Brian McCann - Likely just a hiccup in what's been a solid season so far, McCann hit just .211/.250/.263 over the past 6 weeks with just 1 XBH and 5 strikeouts. The All-Star catcher has managed to at least take advantage of his opportunities to drive in runs, chipping in 4 RBI during the week.
Freddie Freeman - After an impressive previous 15-20 days, the rookie first baseman cooled off a bit over the past week, going just 5-25 with 2 XBH, 2 RBI and a .200/.259/.280. I think he's still been looking good at the plate and staying in on pitches, especially against LHP. Now hitting out of the 6-hole, Freddie has a bit more responsibility in this offense and I expect him to pick it back up during the upcoming week.
Christhian Martinez/Jairo Asencio - When putting together candidates for this week's list, the bullpen immediately came to mind. But when looking at the numbers a bit more closely, it became clear that the relief core actually excelled...outside of Martinez and Asencio. While Fredi Gonzalez misused them, the two pitchers combined for just two appearances and 3 IP, but allowed 6 earned runs for a 18.00 ERA and picked up the week's only loss. Their 5 hits and 2 BB to 0 strikeouts certainly didn't help. Acensio's performance was bad enough to earn him a trip back down to Gwinnett.
Dishonorable Mention: Nate McLouth (5-23, .217/.308/.261, 1 XBH, 7K); Martin Prado (6-26, .231/.333/.269, 1 XBH)