After playing their first 9 games against the Phillies, Cubs, and Marlins, there was some skepticism behind the Braves’ 8-1 start to the year.
A lack of their opponent’s talents, the fact that they were without Freddie Freeman, Brian McCann, and Jonny Venters, and the worrying reality that Jason Heyward and B.J. Upton were contributing very little, led many to believe this start was a fluke.
Bottom line, the record seemed deceiving. Plus, the Braves were headed to Washinton D.C. to take on the “best team in baseball” in the Nationals. Surely, the Nats and their two aces would bring the Braves back down to earth.
Then came the 9th inning of game one against the Washington Nationals on Thursday night. After rallying for 4 runs in the 7-9th innings against the Nats bullpen to erase a 4-run deficit, the Braves took the lead in the 10th on a Ramiro Pena (Who? Exactly.) 2-run HR.
The momentum from that comeback would lead to the Braves beating Stephen Strasburg the next day and crushing Gio Gonzalez the day after that…. And all of this happened on the road.
Side note: The Nats bullpen looked horrendous in the series and most people’s “world series” favorite showed very little fight/tenacity while being swept at home by their division rival. I know it’s only April, but this was a bad sign for the Nats and a really good one for the Bravos.
As a whole, the Braves pitching staff, which isn’t even their strength on paper this year, is 1st in ERA, WHIP, and BAA.
The Braves bullpen has been even better, giving up only 5 runs in over 34 innings this year, while the offense has been potent even without contributions from most of their big time names (5th in slugging percentage).
The Braves have now won 9 straight games and pace the MLB with an 11-1 record.
Call it a fluke if you would like, but be ready to eat crow, because the Braves are not showing any signs of slowing down….Up next, the Royals at home.
Follow Cole Stevenson on twitter: @Cole_Stevenson