Acuna Fuels Braves Race Towards Top of the NL East
The Atlanta Braves streak reached 11 games Sunday with a 5-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s the teams longest since winnining 14 in a row in 2013. Kyle Wright, the Braves first round pick in 2017, went six innings and struck out 7. He improved to 7-3 with a 2.57 ERA for the season. Wright, Max Fried, and Spencer Strider have given Atlanta solid starts during this stretch. Their strong pitching is keeping the Braves afloat while Charlie Morton and Ian Anderson struggle to find their playoff form from last year.
While the Braves starters picked it up the last two weeks, along with Atlanta’s bullpen, the biggest key to the teams streak comes down to one player: Ronald Acuna Jr. Yes, the team missed his power in the leadoff spot, and yes he has a plus arm and is a solid overall right fielder, but its plays like this make Acuna truly electric:
Acuna can at times make some errors in judgement trying to steal bases but he possesses rare speed. He forces the defense into errors and manufactures runs often when he’s on base. Clearly Acuna still does not have quite the same power yet coming off his ACL injury but that has come back some over the last week as well. His presence and abilities make the entire lineup better. As long as he is healthy Braves fans have a chance to see one of the top 5 all around best players in MLB.
Braves Charge to Top could Continue Over Next Week
Long winning streaks are rare in baseball because so much has to go right every day to keep it going. The Braves streak has benefited from who they played: the Pirates, Oakland A’s, Colorado Rockies, and Arizona Diamondbacks. All four teams are under .500 right now and Atlanta could close the gap even more on the New York Mets this week. The team travels to Washington to take on the Nationals and to Chicago to face the Cubs. Both teams are currently well under .500.
The Braves schedule will get more difficult after this week. The next two weeks the team takes on the San Francisco Giants and LA Dodgers at home, and then starts its road trip against the Philadelphia Phillies. These wins were needed to build the teams confidence. Before winning 11 in a row the Mets held a 10.5 game lead over the Braves. Now it’s down to 5.5, and they are tied with San Francisco for the last wild card spot. The team needed a jolt when they were 4 games under .500 and over the last two weeks they have gotten it. The question now becomes if they keep it going to show they really can defend their World Series championship?
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