No Major League Baseball team in the entire sport enjoys getting swept. From the best team in the bigs to the team with the worst record, they all want to be able to show that they can win series or at least one game in a series at the worst. The Atlanta Braves have the dubious distinction of getting swept by the San Diego Padres after splitting a series with the Los Angeles Dodgers. There are quite a few things that I could point out that went wrong during the seven game road trip but instead I would like to point out the things that went right.
The starting pitching was superb. To a man the only times a starter gave up more than a couple of runs was on one bad pitch with people on base. Literally the starting staff has really improved its collective performance and though the bullpen faltered a time or two, the pitching staff as a whole is still one of the top couple in the National League.
B.J. Upton and Justin Upton are coming out of their collective slumps. Justin’s might not have been as pronounced B.J.’s but both had struggled over the last month. In B.J.’s case of course it has been basically the entire season. B.J. has definitely hit much better over the last week, raising his average around 20 points at one point. Justin meanwhile has been on a homer drought and seems to be well on his way out of that considering the way he is swinging. Though both brothers have some work still to do, they are headed in the right direction.
Without a doubt the best sign for improvement has come from Jason Heyward. His average is over the .200 mark for the first time this season and he continues to hit extremely well. I don’t mean he has hit well for a few games but not really turned it on. No, he really has snapped out of his slump and is hitting like the slugger we all know. Over the past ten games he has 3 homers, 4 RBI and 8 runs scored. The best stat by far over that ten game stretch, including the last three of the previous home stand, is his .395 batting average. At last Heyward is getting to where he is supposed to be. Any time a guy raises his average 62 points over ten games he has done some hitting.
So there you go. Manager Fredi Gonzalez mentioned in an interview with the official site that he felt good about the team’s effort in spite of the losses. I completely agree with him. Though it was yet another frustrating west coast trip, the Braves have a ton of good to build on coming back home.