On Sunday, Sept. 3, the Atlanta Braves finished strongly in a road series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. They managed to end the four-game series with a 3-1 record, making up for their 8-1 loss to the Dodgers earlier in the season on Tuesday, May 23.
Fan favorites Ronald Acuña Jr. from the Braves and Mookie Betts from the Dodgers led their teams on the field. Both right fielders for their teams and season MVP contenders, it was an important chance for them to prove themselves. Although Betts put up strong numbers, two home runs in one game alone, Acuña Jr. delivered even stronger. After tying the knot with his longtime girlfriend Maria Laborde the morning of game one, Acuña Jr. made history by becoming the first player in the league with 30 home runs and 60 stolen bases in a season. Acuña Jr. had his possible MVP moment when hitting a grand slam to propel the Braves to their 8-7 win later that night. Acting as the team’s spark plug, he remarkably finished strong with a home run in each of the first three games.
After their performance at Dodger stadium, the Braves were back at Truist Park to play two consecutive series against the Saint Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Going back and forth with the Cardinals, Braves catcher Travis D’Arnaud and left fielder Eddie Rosario put up a stellar performance with four combined RBIs for the 8-5 win in game three. Disappointing to Atlanta fans, the Cardinals’ pitching turned out to be strong enough to take two of the three games. Cardinals’ pitcher Dakota Hudson allowed only seven hits in his five innings pitched as the Cardinals won the series over Atlanta.
The next three days, however, gave Atlanta fans a much-desired change of pace. Winning two of the three games in their series against the Pirates, the Braves pivoted back into control of their schedule with an impressive 8-2 win in the first game. Hitting three home runs, the Braves’ offense cleaned up. After the seventh inning, their defense tightened and allowed only two runs from the Pirates. Pitcher Bryce Elder gave a solid performance, tossing seven innings while allowing only four hits and one walk. Especially strong was his slider as Elder threw nine strikeouts. The series closed with an exciting game three, seeing an electric double to center field by Acuña Jr. that allowed the Braves to come back late in the seventh.
Aside from its success, the most notable inconsistency in the Atlanta squad members is found in their pitching. While the Atlanta offense puts up runs when needed, the team often finds itself hurting from not having quality reliable pitchers. The season has been fraught with injury, as the team continues to rotate its pitching lineup. Exciting for Braves fans is the return of Kyle Wright, who was sidelined for the majority of the season with a shoulder injury. Wright, who ended last season with a 3.19 ERA, is expected to provide a strong foundation for the pitching lineup. Also returning from the injured list is fan-favorite Max Fried. Posting a 2.86 ERA over 34 2/3 innings, fans anticipate a strong performance from him late into the season. Michael Sorokais not performing as expected, though. After having come up through low-A teams in the Atlanta area, Soroka delivered low ERAs and a strong work ethic. After seasons filled with injury, his return to the major leagues has not been what fans had hoped. After a brief stint back in the league, Soroka is back out on injury with numbness in his hand and inflammation in his elbow.
Despite the disappointing injuries, the future looks bright for Atlanta. With the best record in the League and being on pace to break their franchise’s record for most wins in a season, the team is undoubtedly high performing. Even with their inconsistencies in pitching, the Braves still rank second in ERA in the National League. If the team can tighten up on pitching and translate their high performance to the postseason, it might be a great year to be a Braves fan. The Braves are just two years removed from a World Series win and look to get another.