The Atlanta Braves finished a string of six consecutive series without a day off on Wednesday, getting swept by the 32-34 San Diego Padres to end this set of games with an 11-9 record. Although this record—which included a five game winning streak—may not be very impressive, the team has been able to maintain a comfortable lead in the NL East, as they currently hold a 5.5 game lead over the Washington Nationals.
This past few sets of games have seen several key Braves hitters begin to come around in the batter’s box, which undoubtedly has everyone in Braves Country excited about what is yet to come. The main player that has been impressive over and over again is right fielder Jason Heyward, who has overcome a slow start and an appendectomy to really turn it on in June, hitting .370 with 3 home runs and 4 RBI through twelve games this month (Heyward held a .146 average after May 31st; his average now sits at .215).
Although his numbers are not quite as impressive as Heyward’s, big free agent acquisition B.J. Upton has begun to show some potential at the plate, knocking in 2 home runs (including a game-tying home run against the Pirates on June 4th) along with 4 RBIs in June. While Bossman Junior has started to string along some hits here and there in the past two weeks, strikeouts are still too prevalent a part of his offense, as the elder Upton has 10 strikeouts over that same period of time.
While Jason Heyward and B.J. Upton as well as Dan Uggla (a .305 average with 3 HRs and 6 RBIs in the last week) appeared to have turned the corner in their game, the Braves may soon have trouble with left fielder Justin Upton, whose hot start in the spring has been followed with a mediocre summer. The main problem with Upton at this particular point in time is both a power outage (12 HRs in April compared to just 2 HRs in May) and an alarming increase in strikeouts, as the twenty-five year old has had at least two strikeouts in 9 of his last 17 games. It’s not at the point where Braves general manager Frank Wren should be tossing and turning at night worrying about the former first round pick of the 2005 MLB Draft, but it is definitely something that everyone needs to keep their eye on.
The next three series for the Braves put the team up against teams that appear very beatable on paper, as Atlanta faces a Giants team at home that has seen their starting rotation struggle mightily, a Mets team on the road that at this point has won two of their last ten games, and a Brewers team on the road that sits at 23rd in baseball in run differential at -39. Look for the Bravos to pad their division lead in the span of the next eleven games.