It's clear that the offense has jump-started over the past 7-10 games and are now approaching league-average in a number of categories. But while the offense has noticeably improved, the great pitching also continues to get better. The hurlers are at or near the top of most pitching categories in the NL, including ERA, WHIP and K/BB (along with PHI and SD). Opponents are only scoring 3.09 R/G against the Braves, good for best in the majors.
America's team heads to Citizens Bank Park on Friday to begin a quick three-game weekend series before heading back to Turner Field for a few games against the Nationals. They will also have the benefit of an off-day on Monday.
So, without further ado, here are this week's (7 games) "Cheers and Jeers"....
Nate McLouth - The speedy centerfielder has absolutely been on fire the past 7 games. His 9-21 performance included his first 2 HR of the season and 4 RBI. Perhaps most importantly, he had 7 walks against just 2 strikeouts. While facing so many RHP starters recently has certainly helped, he's putting some better swings on balls and seems to be thriving at the 8 spot in the order. With Nate getting on-base at such a high clip, he's effectively turning into another lead-off hitter for the 1-3 hitters in the order.
Martin Prado - The Braves' lead-off hitter did his best clean-up performance going 11-31 with 8 RBI over the past week. He now has 18 RBI on the season..good for 2nd on the team behind Chipper. The 11 hits included 3 doubles and Thursday's game-winning HR. His 5 K to 0 BB isn't exciting, but he's never been much of a walker and if he can hit for a high average then it alleviates some of the OBP-related need for walks. With him hitting lead-off, not walking much and serving as Chipper's back-up, I wouldn't be surprised to see him lead the league in AB at the end of the season.
Starting Pitching - The Braves starting rotation just continues to dominate. Despite sitting in the shadow of the 'greatest rotation of all-time' in Philadelphia, the Atlanta starters put up a 2.31 ERA with a 4.33 K/BB ratio over the past 7 games. Remove Derek Lowe's post-DUI weekend start and those numbers drop to an astounding 1.73 ERA and 4.86 K/BB. Every start outside of Lowe's resulted in 2 ER or less and Tim Hudson's CG one-hit shutout on Wednesday was one of the best starting pitching performances in the majors so far this year. With this type of starting rotation, even a league average offense (which the Braves are becoming) will result in great things for this team.
Alex Gonzalez - Gonzo quietly went 8-27 with a double and a homer over the past 7 games. His 5 RBI was second only to Martin Prado. With Freeman struggling, Alex paired with Nate McLouth to form an impressive end of the order pair over the past week. Outside of his offense, he continues to play Gold
Honorable Mention: Offense (5 R/G, .281 AVG, .353 OBP, 7 HR, 27 BB); Dan Uggla (9-28, 3 2B, 2 RBI); David Ross (4-9, 1 2B, 1 HR)
Freddie Freeman - The rookie first baseman continued his recent struggles. His 3-18 performance over the past 7 games included exactly zero XBH and his 5 strikeouts certainly aren't helping the case. He did at least manage to knock in three runs and his four walks put his OBP at a somewhat respectable level. A rookie season is usually going to come with a number of ups and downs, so hopefully another 'up' starts soon.
Jason Heyward - Speaking of some ups and downs, J-Hey has already been on a number of hot and cold streaks so far this season. Unfortunately, the past 7 games have been completely COLD. Heyward's struck out an alarming 11 times in just 26 AB. He has three XBH, including a HR, but hasn't driven anyone in outside of himself. He also managed to chip in a 'caught stealing' (though the entire team has been doing a lot of that). The young phenom seems to have lost his ability to drive outside pitches the other way so far this season. That must return if he's going to be as successful as his tools suggest he should be.
Cory Gearrin - After a strong major-league debut, Gearrin followed up with a few rough outings. In three appearances (3.2 IP), the rookie reliever allowed 3 H and 2 BB, leading to 3 ER and one of the team's two losses over the past 7 games. He did manage to chip in 4 K, so he showed that he was still going out there with some good stuff.
Dishonorable Mention: None! (Chipper, McCann and Kimbrel all got themselves out of a listing with Thursday's game)