For manager Fredi Gonzalez and the Atlanta Braves, this weekend's three-game sweep in the City of Brotherly Love was a shot in the arm. For the past week and a half, the team had been staggering against their opponents. They could not play consistently, as they would dominate in some games and struggle in others.
While they were able to finish their mediocre homestand with a win, they were not where they wanted to be. Now that they have begun to play with passion and consistency, have they finally turned the corner?
This may only be a four-game winning streak, but it has showcased the Braves' potential as a contender and as a playoff team. Their pitching has kept them in ball games, their bullpen has held the lead and the offense has done enough and more to win. Key player Brian McCann has broken out and hit home runs in four consecutive games.
Dan Uggla hit an important game-tying two-run home run in the finale of the series against the Phillies, possibly signaling his reemergence as a producer in the lineup. Other players continue to play well, including all-stars Chipper Jones and Michael Bourn, along with Jason Heyward and Martin Prado.
Newcomer Andrelton Simmons has also made his presence known, but unfortunately broke his pinky finger in the finale and will be out for a few weeks after the All-Star break. While his absence will be felt, it may not derail the team from their recent winning ways.
Other elements that cannot be forgotten are Jair Jurrjens' improvement, Tim Hudson's hardiness, Tommy Hanson's consistency and Craig Kimbrel's dominance. These pitchers have done quality jobs recently and have prevented the team from sliding in the standings.
The Braves have been playing the right way in the past four games, which is a promising sign going into the break. The only key injury at the moment, other than Brandon Beachy, is Simmons, but he'll be back soon. Johnny Venters will be returning soon and Chipper Jones is playing with little pain.
After the break, the Braves will have an easier schedule, returning players and a new attitude. Will this translate in the win/loss column? Things are pointing to yes, and I would have to cautiously agree.
Nothing is guaranteed in baseball (just look at the Phillies' season), but you just have to like the way Atlanta is playing.
Now all they need to do is play like they have in the past few days and stay healthy, and a playoff spot should be theirs.
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