With Brooks Conrad’s walk-off grand slam, the Braves have won three games in a row (all by walk-offs) and completed a sweep (even if it was only two games) over the previously surging Cincinnati Reds.
I know momentum doesn’t play as big of a role in baseball as it does other sports (specifically football), but I can’t see how the Braves aren’t flying high after this past win.
With three games at Pittsburgh on tap, the Braves really have a chance to start climbing the division standings, which would be good since the schedule gets considerably tougher in June (with the Phillies, Dodgers, Twins, and Rays all on tap in the first two thirds of the month).
The most promising thing over the past three days was the pitching of Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami.
Most know of Lowe’s struggles since coming to Atlanta, but he might finally be figuring it out. While his past two starts haven’t been terrific, he’s gone a total of 13 innings, allowing five runs and lowering his ERA from 6.16 to 5.47 over that span.
Kawakami’s last start was easily his best of the year, as he threw six shutout innings, bringing his ERA down below 5.00 for the first time in nearly a month. Considering that the Braves were up 4-0 when he made his departure, I’m surprised Bobby Cox didn’t let Kawakami try to navigate the Reds lineup in the seventh inning, as he had thrown only 79 pitches when he was lifted for a pinch hitter.
The pitching hasn’t all been terrific though, as the bullpen finally looked human on Wednesday. They blew a four run lead, and Billy Wagner has only converted 66.7 percent of his save opportunities on the year (which, to be fair, haven’t been coming along all that often as he only has six chances this year).
In the second game of the Reds series, the bullpen was much better, allowing one run in 7.1 innings (and that run was allowed by Jesse Chavez, who worked 3.1 innings).
While the three straight walk-offs will draw most of the headlines, the Braves accomplished a few other feats with their (mini-) sweep of the Reds.
The team finally moved above .500 (for the first time since before their nine-game losing streak.
Also, with Yunel Escobar and Melky Cabrera getting their batting averages up to an even .200, all of the Braves position players are hitting at or above the Mendoza line for the first time this year.
Upcoming Series: Atlanta Braves (21-20) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (18-23)
Friday: Tim Hudson (4-1, 2.41) @ Ross Ohlendorf (0-1, 3.00)
Saturday: Derek Lowe (5-4, 5.47) vs. Charlie Morton (1-7, 9.68)
Sunday: Kris Medlen (1-1, 2.45) vs. Zach Duke (3-4, 5.08)
Normally I have trouble predicting a sweep. There are just so many things that can happen in a three game set, which is why most teams focus on winning the entire series.
But I really think that the Braves will sweep the Pirates this week. The pitching matchups all seem to favor the Braves, and their lineup should have some momentum following the three walk-off wins.
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