The Braves scored 22 runs on their road trip to open the season. In three games against the New York Mets, the Braves scored seven runs, losing all three games, and took two of three from the Astros in Houston, where they scored 15 runs. The run totals are deceptive, as the offense was struggling to produce runs in key spots to support the starting pitchers.
The Braves pushed ten runs across against the Brewers when they returned to Atlanta on Friday, April 13th, and they took the game 10-8. The pitching was as inconsistent as the offense, and there were many theories about how to turn the Braves around. Manager Fredi Gonzalez fiddled with the lineup both in the series with Milwaukee and to begin a series with the Mets in Atlanta. In the first game of three against the Mets, the Braves could only produce one run, and lost 6-1.
The next two days saw an offensive explosion from Atlanta. On Tuesday, the Braves knocked Johan Santana out of the game in the second inning and scored nine runs in a win where Randall Delgado allowed only three runs for the Braves. On Wednesday, Atlanta hit Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey early and often, posting 14 runs on the way to their seventh win of the season.
The Braves’ bats have come to life recently, and there are a few factors that play a role in their recent success. The first is that Michael Bourn has looked like the spark at the top of the lineup the Braves hoped he would be. Bourn is hitting .260 on the season, but has 10 hits in his last six games, and has scored five runs in those six games, after scoring just one in the first six games of the season. Bourn has also stolen five bases since returning to Atlanta after stealing just one on the season-opening road trip.
Freddie Freeman's bat is the next factor in the Braves’ recent offensive success. Freeman struggled to open the 2012 season, but had four hits and five RBI in Atlanta’s wins over the Mets on Tuesday and Wednesday. Freeman is a solid bat in the middle of the lineup that Fredi Gonzalez can move up or down to match the opposing pitcher. Still, Freeman needs to remain consistently productive and keep driving in the runners on base ahead of him.
Jason Heyward's offense is the real reason the Braves are winning games. Heyward, the Braves’ right fielder, has a .341 batting average, 14 hits, two home runs, six RBI and four stolen bases in 12 games this season. He has an eight-game hitting streak, and has come up with several clutch hits to provide early runs for the Braves’ starting pitching.
Heyward has been one of the only consistent hitters this season for Atlanta, and his output has been tremendous since the Braves have comehome. His early success has encouraged Braves fans, and the rest of the lineup is falling in place behind him. The Braves will take on the Arizona Diamondbacks at home in a four-game series beginning April 19, and they will look to continue their offensive momentum against Arizona’s good, young pitching staff.