Will June prove to be as memorable as May?
Broadcasters John Smoltz and Tom Glavine have combined for as many wins as Kenshin Kawakami and Jair Jurrjens. Projected leadoff hitter Nate McLouth’s batting average has rested above the Mendoza Line for a total of three days since April 10. The ever-consistent Matt Diaz was healthy long enough to tally six more hits than Tim Hudson has recorded this season.
Still through the first two months of this season no other member of the National League East has proven to be as successful as the suddenly rejuvenated Braves. After vaulting into first place with yesterday’s 9-3 win, Chipper Jones, Troy Glaus spoke with the kind of tempered excitement you would expect from veterans who understand that they will experience a number of different plot twists over the course of the next four months.
“There will be more low points during the season,” Jones said. “The key will be to limit the length of the downswings a lot better than we did in April.”
There wasn’t any reason for the Braves to be overly-excited about the fact that they moved into the top spot of their division with 111 games remaining. The Rangers and Brewers led their respective divisions on June 1 last year and ended up at least 10 games back by the time the season concluded.
But the Braves did have reason to feel good about the fact that they had tangible proof that they have managed to essentially negate what was a horrendous April. While losing just eight of their 28 games in May, they notched their first 20-win month since August of 2004.
When I asked Jones if this season reminds him of any of the previous ones he has experienced, he responded with, “dude, I’m old. I can’t remember what happened yesterday.”
Like the Braves managed to brush off the frustration created during April’s nine-game losing streak, they must quickly move away from yesterday’s excitement and focus on attempting to take advantage of a slumbering Phillies offense over the course of the next two days.
Attempting to maintain their half-game lead, the Braves will send Tim Hudson to the mound tonight to oppose Cole Hamels, who went 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA in five May starts. Hudson proved to be a little better, going 4-0 with a 1.59 ERA in the six starts he made during the season’s second month.
When the Braves lost to Hamels on May 9, they fell to 3-7 in games which the opposing team started a left-handed pitchers. Since then they have won six of the seven games played while opposing a left-handed starter.
During this successful span that dates back to May 11, Jason Heyward has hit .385 (10-for-26) with a 1.121 OPS against left-handers. Entering May 10, he had just .222 (6-for-27) with an .808 OPS against southpaws.
This seems to be further evidence that Heyward has the unique ability to quickly make adjustments and adapt to this Major League level that was supposed to provide him a greater challenge.
Heyward enters Tuesday ranked second in the National League with a .988 OPS and his 10 homers are just three off Corey Hart’s league-leading total.
It will be interesting to see where Heyward ranks among NL outfielders when the latest All-Star balloting results are released tomorrow. The 20-year-old phenom is certainly making a strong case to receive a starting assignment.
A tale of two schedules: When looking at the great turnaround the Braves made in May, you can’t overlook the fact that just four of the 23 games they played in April were contested against clubs that currently have a sub .500 record.
In May, the Braves played 14 of 28 games against clubs that are currently below .500. Another nine came against teams that currently own a .500 mark. In other words, they played just five games this past month against clubs with a winning record.
During their 28-game slate in June, the Braves are scheduled to play 13 games against clubs that currently possess a winning record and another three against a .500 club that is about to add Stephen Strasburg to its starting rotation.
With Strasburg scheduled to make his Major League debut on June 8 for the Nationals, it appears that he could in line to start at Turner Field during a three-game series that runs from June 28-30.
Freeman update: Freddie Freeman was scheduled to have his right knee examined via an MRI exam this afternoon in Atlanta. The highly-regarded prospect tweaked his knee while stretching to grab a throw to first base during the second inning of the no-hitter that Todd Redmond completed for Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday night.
Freeman has hit .261 with five homers and a .762 OPS in 43 games with Gwinnett this year.