Dansby Swanson

Mets Get Chopped

By: Joe Delaney

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Homers by Dansby Swanson and Matt Olsen powered the Atlanta Braves to a 5-3 win Sunday night and a three-game sweep of the formerly first place New York Mets in front of a raucous Truist Park crowd.

It was the third game in a row in which BOTH Swanson and Olsen have homered and it came against a loaded Mets lineup and three of the best pitchers in baseball.

The sweep gave Atlanta a 2-game lead over the Mets with 3 games to play with Atlanta holding the tiebreaker by winning the seasons series 10-9.

The Braves head to Miami to take on the Marlins, while the Mets close out the season at home with the Washington Nationals.

Any combo of a Braves win and a Mets loss and the Braves take home the Division Title again. And that’s after trailing the Mets by 10 ½ games on June 1.

It really looks like Deja Vue all over again as these Braves seem to be jelling at the right time. Last year they got hot in the playoffs. Well, they have sure looked like a formidable team rolling into October again.

The starting pitching has been steady. Max Fried and company have consistently gotten the Braves in a position to win after 5 or 6 innings and the bullpen has been stellar. The Atlanta bullpen posted a 1.70 ERA in the month of September. That’s flat out throwin BB’s sports fans……

While the pitching staff has been taking care of business, the starting lineup is playing bash ball. And that’s all through the lineup 1 thru 9.

The Mets rolled into Truist Park with a 1 game lead. Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, and 15 game winner Chris Basset had pitched 377 innings between them. Those 377 innings posted a great 2.79 ERA. One of if not the best trio in baseball.

They flew back to New York with a 6.91 ERA through 14 innings. Basset never even got out of the third inning.

When you look down the Braves lineup, they can all hurt you……….and they will. Matt Olsen now has over 100 RBIs. Austin Riley and Dansby Swanson are pushing 100. Hell, the 2 catchers Travis d’Arnaud and William Contreras have combined for over 100 RBI’s and around 40 home runs. Up and down there is speed and power in this lineup.

Defensively, the Bravos have been excellent with one of the tightest infields in the league and that’s with Ozzie Albies still out of the lineup.

Swanson might be the best overall shortstop in baseball and everyone knows what Matt Olsen and Austin Riley bring to the table game in and game out.

The outfield is just as good with rookie of the year candidate Michael Harris II leading the pack……….wait, did I say Michael Harris II leading the outfield???? What about Ronald Acuna? Well, that’s how good they are.

And last, but at the top of old chief Noc-A-Homa’s totem pole, is the steady excellent coaching staff headed by Brian Snitker. They need to put a big bronze in front of Truist Park of Ron Washington. That’s how steady those guys are.

So, what’s left?  Can they go win it all again. If the Braves can finish out the Marlins and take care of business, the Dodger Series would be one for the ages.

If they can battle past LA……….I like their chances! GO BRAVES!


By: TJ Hartnett

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Atlanta Braves have been scorching hot lately. They leapfrogged the Phillies to take sole possession of first place in the National League East.

With the All-Star Break rapidly approaching, the Braves appear to be positioning themselves well to go into the second half as the team on top and that might mean that General Manager Alex Anthopoulos may be able to make moves (on top of the Dallas Keuchel signing) before the trade deadline to bolster some of the weak spots on the roster.

That being said, let’s take a brief look at some of the things that have led the Braves into first place, as well as a few things that need improvement.

The Really Good:

Austin Riley – It’s not a coincidence that Riley’s promotion to the big leagues proceeded the Braves rise to the top of the heap.

Riley has been beyond exceptional for Atlanta, not just hitting the ball out of the yard but also coming up with clutch hits and playing better left field than a third baseman has any right to.

Nearly the rest of the lineup, for the most part, has been roaring during this surge. Ozzie Albies has found his stroke, Freddie Freeman is putting up MVP-type numbers, Dansby Swanson and Ronald Acuna have been consistent (Acuna loves that leadoff spot), and the catching platoon has been reminiscent of the Flowers/Suzuki platoon a few years ago.

Mike Soroka – The undisputed ace of the staff in 2019, picked up right where he left off in 2018. He has a razor-thin ERA and composure on the mound far exceeding his years. With Keuchel as an unknown factor at the moment, Soroka starts Game 1 of the playoffs for this team.

Julio Teheran – To the surprise of many (myself included – see my unflattering and now-proven-wrong article about Julio from the end of March), Julio Teheran has recaptured the magic that caused the Braves to extend him years ago. He’s been more reliable than Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Gausman, stepping up as the veteran presence in a young rotation.

Luke Jackson – A relief pitcher? Yes. Jackson opened up the season with an atrocious showing, but has since taken over the closer role and has been a solid – if imperfect – piece to close out Atlanta’s victories in 2019.

The Not So Good:

Josh Donaldson – The Bringer of Rain has managed to hit 10 homeruns and has a surprisingly robust batting average with runners in scoring position, but he has failed to earn the $23 million the Braves gave him during the offseason.

It’s unlikely the Braves will find a trade partner for the veteran, but with Riley’s emergence it seems like that Donaldson’s tenure in Atlanta will not span past one season.

Folty and Gausman – The two steadiest presences in the rotation in 2018 were both injured during Spring Training and neither seems to have come back quite right.

Gausman hit the Injured List, and with Keuchel waiting in the wings he may have made his last start for the year.

The Rest of the Bullpen – I know it. You know it. Let’s move on.

I’ll do the math for you, there’s more good than bad on the team right now.

Plus, the weaker points can be improved: Keuchel for Gausman is sure to be an upgrade, and the party line for months has been that Anthopoulos will make moves if the Braves are contending and first place is certainly contending.

If things continue as they are or improve even slightly, Braves Country is in for a great second half.

Brave New Beginning

By: TJ Hartnett

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

While Spring Training is not a good example of what will come to pass in the regular season for any major league team, every game provides at least something to watch.

For the Braves, there will be many things to keep an eye one throughout spring, from any innings pitched by their young hurlers to Dansby Swanson’s attempt to make adjustments and improvements. And of course, most of all, Ronald Acuna taking at bats.

The Braves have started off their Grapefruit League season with consecutive losses against the Mets and Astros, but who cares?

That first loss featured every run scored by the Mets coming in the ninth inning off a pitcher whose name I can’t spell and don’t care to because he won’t be on the roster on Opening Day.

Prior to that, the Braves gave up only two hits and two walks in eight innings, featuring the likes of Matt Wisler and Kolby Allard pitching scoreless baseball.

Rotation contender Sean Newcomb gave up one run on a hit and a walk in his one inning of work in the second game, but also struck out two batters. Watching his one inning he certainly lacked control but after the first two batters got on Newcomb buckled down and adjusted.

Which is, again, more important to see than his actually line score. His big curve ball to strike out Carlos Correa looking reaffirmed that his stuff is good and that he can battle. He just needs to consistently throw strikes.

Ozzie Albies looks to continue his good work from 2017, going 1 for 3 in both games, including leading off game 2 with a slap hit on the first pitch.

Watching him play is going to continue to be a joy in 2018, if his gameplay so far is any indication. He was a pesky hitter who also drew a few throws while leading off from first base. That is exactly the kind of scrappy player I hope he continues to be during the regular season.

Watching Ronald Acuna bat was a treat (he made his debut in the second game) despite going 0 for 3 with a pair of strikeouts. I had never seen him play before, but his swing was smooth and he fought off some tough pitches before going down swinging in his first at bat.

Once he straightens out a few balls he’s going to really make keeping him in Gwinnett a tough call for Alex Anthopoulos (sort of – I’d be surprised if he makes the roster Opening Day even if he leads the Grapefruit League in four baggers).

I’d be remiss not to mention his able chase down of a ball to the warning track that was smoked by Tony Kemp in the second inning. His bat gets all the headlines but Acuna is also heralded as a defender who could man center field for Atlanta if not for Ender Inciarte firmly in place at the position. It’s good to see the kid’s makeup.

Even though he didn’t have the preferred results at the plate, Acuna still scored rave reviews from Brian Snitker due to him staying in the dugout to soak up more baseball after he was taken out of the game.

This isn’t required or expected, or even very common, but it says something about the game’s best prospect that he isn’t resting on his laurels and is still trying to learn everything he can about the game of baseball.

It’s so early and the games are massively populated with players that are a long way from the Major Leagues (especially after the 4th inning or so) but storylines are already starting to develop in Braves camp, with more to begin their opening chapters in the coming weeks.


Braves Spring Training

tj1By: TJ Hartnett

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The day after the Braves were mathematically eliminated from postseason contention in 2014 they fired General Manager Frank Wren.

It was merely the first domino in the Braves’ rebuild, a process that saw big league player after big league player traded away for prospects, tearing down what had been a division winning team just one year earlier and beginning to build back up.

When John Hart and John Schuerholz started making these moves, the boilerplate comforting line was that Atlanta would be built back up into a contending team by the time they moved into their new ballpark, Suntrust Park, in 2017.

Of course, that was ridiculous. There was no way a team was going to trade away Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Craig Kimbrel, Evan Gattis, Andrelton Simmons and more and then in TWO YEARS field a team that was anything but hard to watch. It was a fool’s errand. How could the Braves be in a position to excite their fan base in 2017?

Now, as February winds down and the spring games begin, ramping up for the 2017 season, how do the Braves look?


Not World Series winning exciting; not yet. But against all odds, the Braves are going to field a decent team this year. Stranger still, that excitement rests on the backs of veteran players. All those prospects the Braves traded for aren’t even here yet. Instead, the Braves are looking to Matt Kemp and Brandon Phillips, to Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey; these are the players that have elevated the Braves to being a team that is going to win its fair share of ballgames.

There were times just last season where it seemed like the Braves were never going to win another game. Yet here we are, looking to break camp with an eye on finishing above the Phillies and Marlins in the division.

It’s exciting to have these players, not because they’ll carry the team but because they have a chance to support Freddie Freeman and Julio Teheran.

The Braves have had the centerpieces for years, there’s just been a void surrounding them. Now, as evidenced by the last month and a half of 2016, there’s an actual, living, breathing offense surrounding Freddie Freeman.

The pitching staff that showed its youth last season has been bolstered by stability but more importantly, by players that aren’t permanent. Bartolo Colon is going to start every fifth day, but you can be sure that he won’t be blocking anyone. If there’s a pitcher ready to come up to the bigs and stay, bet on John Coppolella moving those veterans out of the way.

Perhaps that’s part of the excitement. The Braves have had the talent in the farm system, but some, like Aaron Blair, didn’t have enough time to cook down there.

This year, the pressure is off the Braves to present those prospects to the public before they’re ready because they’ve got those veterans in place. So when we see players come up from the minors, they’ll be ready.

Some of that has already begun. Dansby Swanson will be the starting shortstop on opening day in 2017. Ozzie Albies won’t be far behind. Rio Ruiz is in camp and hungry to make his mark in Atlanta.

Look, the Braves didn’t acquire Chris Sale in the offseaon, they got Bartolo Colon. They didn’t trade for Brian Dozier, they traded for Brandon Phillips. There are obviously younger players in their primes than what the Braves have in Atlanta but look at last year’s stats for Phillips. That’s a guy who hit .291 now playing second base for the Braves.

Bartolo Colon won 15 games and was an All-Star last year. Now he’s the Braves number two pitcher.

It’s very unlikely that the Braves will make the postseason this year. But if we judge success on achieving the impossible, then Atlanta has already won; because the 2017 season starts soon and I’m excited.