4 Ways Atlanta Braves Can Storm Through the Playoffs
The Atlanta Braves will storm through the playoffs and into the World Series.
The Braves enter the playoffs via the Wild Card, and still have to win the one-game playoff. However, it's hard not to think they'll succeed in that one game and beyond.
Currently, the Braves are 12-3 in their last 15 games, which is better than any other playoff contender in the National League. The Washington Nationals are 7-8 in their last 15, while the San Francisco Giants are 11-4 and the Cincinnati Reds are 9-6.
While it's going to take more than a great close in the regular season, the Braves are certainly on the right track.
Here are four ways the Braves can continue their recent success and storm through the playoffs.
Solid Starting Pitching
It can go without saying, but when the Braves' starters succeed, the team has success.
We saw it through their string of 14-straight division titles, and we're seeing it again this year.
The starting staff starts with Kris Medlen, who should get consideration for NL Comeback Player of the Year. The Braves have won 23-straight games started by Medlen, which is an MLB record.
Since joining the rotation on July 31, Medlen is 9-0 with a 0.96 ERA and 86 strikeouts.
Then there's Tim Hudson, who has been solid for the Braves as well. In his last 16 games started, Hudson is 9-3 with a 3.42 ERA and 47 strikeouts. While Hudson has had his struggles at times, he is still the ace of the staff.
The final two spots will be taken by Paul Maholm, Tommy Hanson or Mike Minor.
Hanson has struggled as of late, having not gotten out of the sixth inning in his last seven starts.
Minor is impressing more with each start after struggling early in the season, having won his last five decisions.
Maholm has been hit or miss lately, giving up six or more earned runs in two of his last five starts.
As to which two pitchers get the nod, it's anyone's guess. The fact remains, however, the three pitchers are going to have to be on top of their games if they get the call.
Michael Bourn Has to Get on Base
Michael Bourn gives the Braves a distinct advantage over any team they would face in the playoffs.
With the ability to steal a base at any given moment, Bourn can change the game right off the bat.
However, Bourn hasn't been doing that as of late, even before the thumb injury. For the year, he only has 40 stolen bases.
In the month of September, Bourn only has three stolen bases. And, it's not like he hasn't been on base with a .349 on-base percentage.
What the Braves need out of Bourn is take advantage of the times he is on base. Pitchers may be keying on him to steal those bases, but he needs to take more chances.
Dan Uggla Continues Hitting Better
Dan Uggla has been hitting a lot better towards the end of the season.
As he struggled through a majority of the season, Braves' fans groaned at him being in the lineup every day. Freddi Gonzalez even benched him for a few games in early September.
However, September has seen him have success with a .280 average, two home runs and 13 RBI. He has also raised his season batting average from .208 to .219.
If Uggla can continue hitting the way he is in the No. 7 hole, the Braves will have an even more formidable lineup.
How could any team want to face a middle of the lineup that included Jason Heyward, Chipper Jones, Freddie Freeman, Brian McCann and Dan Uggla?
Unleash the Beast
The Braves have perhaps the best closer in the league, so why not use him at the most important time?
Craig Kimbrel has shown the ability to get the big outs when needed and the playoffs should be no different.
It's no secret the bullpen was overused last year, which contributed to the September collapse.
This year, however, Gonzalez has done a better job at maintaining his bullpen. Kimbrel has only 62 appearances this year, while he had 79 last year.
Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty have followed the same pattern as Kimbrel as well with only 65 and 63 appearances, respectively.
This year, all three pitchers haven't been used in near as many games. The Braves are succeeding because of that.
Now, with it being playoff time, the Braves can unleash the beasts. Whenever there's trouble late in the game, Gonzalez shouldn't be afraid to go to the bullpen.
Maybe Gonzalez will even use Kimbrel before the ninth if the Braves need to preserve a one-run lead in the seventh or eighth innings.