The Atlanta Braves have not been in first place this late in the season since 2005, which is coincidentally — or maybe not — the last year the Braves won the division.
When this team was reeling in April with that unforgettable nine game losing streak, you would have been hard-pressed to find many who would believe that the Braves would be in first place by the start of June.
The Braves being in first place is a combination of superb play from the team themselves and a huge slump coming from the preseason favorite Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies closed out May with a 3-7 record over their past ten games whereas the Braves went 8-2, including the major’s longest winning streak with six straight victories.
Until San Diego’s blowout of the Mets, the Braves had the best run differential in the National League. Unfortunately, the Padres passed the Braves, but personally, I am not too upset that they pounded the Mets out as they surpassed us in terms of Pythagorean Record.
As they enter June, the Braves have a tough schedule in the coming weeks.
Atlanta plays Philadelphia for the remaining two games in this series tonight and tomorrow, then they fly out to Los Angeles for a four game set, then to Arizona for four, and close out the road trip in Minnesota for three. There are no off days from now until the end of that stretch. The Braves have struggled outside of Turner (12-16 in away games), so having a solid road trip will be a tough task that hopefully the Braves are up for.
Before they start the road trip, the Braves have a great opportunity to extend their NL East lead and put the Phillies in a bigger hole with Tim Hudson on the mound tonight and Derek Lowe facing off against Kyle Kendrick tomorrow.
Hudson has had solid numbers so far, but has been less effective than many believe. His 4.39 FIP compared to his 2.24 ERA says that he has gotten rather lucky, and if he wants to continue the success he has had this year, he will have to strike-out more and walk less.
Derek Lowe, on the other hand has had more success as of late (4.11 ERA in May), and has actually been a bit unlucky this year as his FIP stands at 4.47 while his ERA sits at 4.86. If Lowe pitches as he has, he should be in line for a lower ERA and more success in the general fan’s eyes in the near future.
Both of their performances will be key in extending the division league in the next two days, but regardless, this is not a must-win situation for either game. The Braves are in a great position and are playing very solid baseball as of late. Regardless of whether they win or lose both games, the Braves are playing well. And at the start of June, that means more than their current place in the standings.
This is a great time to be a Braves follower, and waking up in first place for the first time in June since 2005 at least shows that this is a better product than we have seen in the past few seasons. Hopefully, the Braves will be able start consecutive months in first place and bring the winning ways back to Atlanta. Those same winning ways we all grew accustom to for 14 straight seasons.
Tags: Derek Lowe, First Place, NL East Blogs, Tim Hudson
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