Just a Bit Outside-Real Braves?
I don’t know why things are this way, but sports fans are always overreacting and nitpicking for things to satisfy their confirmation bias. That’s been no more evident than from the vocal Braves fans during this slow start. Granted, since I came up with the idea to write this, they have won 3 of their last 4 and are now in a tie for 1st place in the NL East standings. Those facts alone are exactly why Braves fans need to relax.
Before diving further into the Braves, let’s first update on what happened on the high school diamond this week.
Boiling Springs has found their stride, riding a 3 game hot streak where they have scored a combined 39 runs while dominating on the mound as well. They have surrendered only 4 over that stretch. With Wednesday night’s 8-0 shutout of Gaffney and Nation Ford’s win over Fort Mill, the Bulldogs clinched the Region 3-5A title. They still have 1 more region game to play at Gaffney tonight.
Region 2-5A is getting interesting as the Dorman Cavaliers, who after winning the series against Byrnes looked to be on cruise control to win the region, has gone on a skid, and right now have their arch rival Spartanburg nipping at their heels. The Vikings have already won the city rivalry series with 2 close 1 run wins, but have another game tonight. A sweep would leave the Vikes tied with Byrnes for the region with a makeup game against the Rebels still to play. Could the red hot Vikings be starting a late season run? It is possible.
And last but certainly not least, the showdown we have all been waiting for. Landrum and Chesnee duking it out for Region 2-2A. The series started last night at Chesnee and it lived up to the billing in the early going. Through the first 3 innings it was a great battle of power pitching between Landrum ace Evan Siary and Chesnee’s Cole Hoskyns.
Landrum started off patient at the plate, forcing Hoskyns into several full counts, but in spite of that, he took a no hitter into the 4th inning when Landrum’s Colbyn Jackson hit a high fly ball to left that the wind knocked down and went for a 1 out double. On the flipside, Chesnee was aggressive at the plate, as Siary cruised through most of the game. Siary allowed Chesnee to strike first after Cam Burns reached on a 2 base error, advanced to 3rd on a bunt, and then scored on a wild pitch. After that, Siary was lights out, striking out 11 of his next 16 batters. He ended up with a complete game, with 1 unearned run, 1 hit, 15 K’s, and just 2 walks.
Offensively, Landrum basically took control of the game by doing what they have all season — using their wealth of speed and aggression on the base paths to wreak havoc. They took a 3-1 lead in the 5th on 2 hits, 2 failed force plays, and an error. But they blew the game open in the 7th off Chesnee reliever Landon Thompson, starting the inning with 3 singles, and an error that led to 3 more runs. The Cards also stole 3 bases during the 7th inning rally.
These 2 meet up again to wrap up the series tonight at Landrum, and with the momentum from last night’s big road win and the home field advantage, you have to favor the Cardinals here. But don’t count Chesnee out.
Now.. back to the Braves. To show why it is crazy to panic right now, we have to look at the big picture. The Braves are a game under .500 at 12-13. So? Well, if you had told me that we’d have ⅔ of the lineup batting .200-.250 and that they would be down Christian Pache, Ender Inciarte (who was hitting well prior to getting hurt filling in for Pache), Max Fried, Chris Martin, and that Mike Soroka would be facing a setback that pushes his return to June, yet they would still be .500 and in first place, I might have been inclined to laugh at you.
Alas though, that is the case. You might say “So? They are talented enough to win in spite of injuries.” You are right.. to an extent. This Braves team is talented. Save for Guillermo Heredia and Ehire Adrianza being in it, this is the same Braves lineup that has knocked the cover off the ball the last 3 years. Part of baseball is going through slumps. The Braves have started out on one. But just because they are struggling, doesn’t mean it is time to blow it up and start over.. Believe it or not, this lineup is actually coming around. Let’s look at how we know that.
Dansby Swanson has been hitting to all fields and has adjusted his swing a little. Freddie Freeman is batting .500 over his last 12 plate appearances (6-12). He had one AB in Tuesday night’s win that showed why he is coming around. He ended up drawing a walk, but took 4 pitches down and in that he would have swung at in the earlier going this season. He also took a strike on a 3-1 fastball in his happy zone that same AB rather than pulling the trigger and pulling the ball right to 1st.
Austin Riley is also seeing the ball well and making good contact, even on pitches below his knees. He went 8-15 in the 4 game series with Chicago. Ozzie Albies has started to crank up the doubles machine as he is so well known for.
If that’s not enough to convince you that the Braves are starting to put it together and that they will be ok, let’s take a look at the big picture from around MLB in the early going.
How are your favorites to win each division doing right now? Did you pick the Yankees to win the AL East? Here’s how they’re doing.. 11-14 and in last place. With all that money and talent, they’re last. Do you know who is leading AL East race right now? The Red Sox, who have little pitching, yet have been one of the hottest teams in baseball out of the gate at 16-10.
Did you have the Dodgers winning it all this year? Of course you did.. They are 3-7 in their last 10 and are behind the Giants in 2nd. Did you have the Royals and Mariners in the cellar? The Royals currently have the best record in baseball and lead the AL Central by 1.5 games. The Mariners? 2nd in the west.
Did you have Miami at the bottom of the NL East? They are actually competing half a game back in 4th (with a 3 way tie ahead of them for 1st). The Cubs, as talented as they are, sit in last in the NL Central at 11-14.
Case/point, there is a lot of parity in the early going. Eventually, things will level out and the cream will rise to the top. This won’t last. But right now is the time to struggle. The Braves, with their offense clicking, and with everybody healthy again, will be part of that cream.
It isn’t panic time. It is ridiculous to overreact to April in a 162 game season. But it is good time to admit what we are right now. Right now, this team is average. Very average. So is most of the league. But, that is just where this team stands right now on April 30th, 2021. There is plenty of season to go. They have Chris Martin, Max Fried, Pache, and Ender coming back soon. Mike Soroka will be back in late June. This offense will not struggle all season. The slump won’t last. Don’t panic because the status quo won’t last. So let’s enjoy the normalcy of a regular 162 game season with fans in the park, and just push through it! Chop on, Braves fans!