The Atlanta Braves have seemingly shook off the dust from a tough stretch in the month of June by playing great baseball against the faltering Philadelphia Phillies, sweeping their NL East rivals in a four-game stretch in Philadelphia for the first time since 1964 to hold a ½ game division lead over the Washington Nationals.
Atlanta’s success in the most recent days can be accredited to great play from several of the team’s key players, including rookie Tommy La Stella. La Stella was red hot when he was first called up to the majors back on May 28, reeling off several hits to hold an average of .411 by Jun. 15. La Stella came back to earth a bit in the two weeks that followed (currently holds a .278 average with 13 RBIs), but showed on Saturday that he has the potential to be a great asset for this Braves squad.
La Stella sealed the deal for the Braves in game 1 of a doubleheader with Philadelphia with an impressive 3-RBI triple to right field that handed Atlanta an 8-2 lead in what proved to be a 10-2 victory. He followed this performance up in the nightcap with a pair of doubles and 2 RBIs, which is quite an accomplishment for a rookie in his first MLB doubleheader. Many wondered if the twenty-five-year-old could serve as an adequate replacement for the hapless Dan Uggla, and although there still is plenty of baseball left to play, it looks as if the move by manager Fredi Gonzalez to call La Stella up was the right call.
Another interesting take from the four-game series in the City of Brotherly Love involves current relief pitcher David Hale. Hale stepped up to the challenge of starting on Saturday and shut down Philadelphia, allowing just 4 hits with a single run over five innings in Atlanta’s 3-2 victory.
While the former Princeton standout did not post a gaudy strikeout number (just 3 on this occasion), he certainly made a case for his return to the starting rotation and could have helped general manager Frank Wren in regards to the trade deadline.Wren has made it no secret that he relies on mid-summer acquisitions to keep his teams competing in the National League, and with both Aaron Harang and Ervin Santana operating on one-year contracts, it will be interesting to see if the team keeps the rotation as is in order to make a run in October or trades a hurler away before one–or both–of the two walk away come winter.
The Braves currently sit at 43-38 on the season and have four series left before the All-Star break kicks off for the team on Monday, Jul. 14.
First comes a three-game matchup at Turner Field with the New York Mets, who are hanging around in the East thanks in part to solid pitching from Bartolo Colon (8-6, 3.88 ERA, 79 strikeouts). Following this series is a trip out west to face the struggling Arizona Diamondbacks, then a four-game series in Queens with the Mets, and finally three games against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.