Braves surge past Phillies to overtake National League East
Oh, how the tables have turned.
The Braves extended their season-high winning streak to six games and moved into first place in the National League East with a 9-3 spanking of division rival Philadelphia at Turner Field on Memorial Day.
Chipper Jones homered for the first time this season from the left side and snapped his six-week long homerless drought with a two-run blast in the first inning, staking the Braves to an early lead that they would not relinquish.
An even more encouraging sign that Jones is finding his stroke is the single he hit in the bottom of the seventh while batting right, showing an increased comfort from both sides of the plate.
Troy Glaus capped the Atlanta onslaught with a three-run homer off Philadelphia reliever Chad Durbin to put the final nail in the Phillies coffin.
With his latest blast, Glaus tacked three more RBIs on his astounding and unexpected total of 28 for the month of May, which led the National League.
Atlanta’s good fortune comes just one month after a nine-game losing streak had them dwelling in the cellar of the NL East, staring up at these same Phillies.
Just as the Braves began to hit their stride, the Phillies fell into a slump of their own.
Since the last time these two teams played, the Braves have gone 16-4 and erased a six-game deficit in the NL East standings to overtake the sputtering Phillies, who have gone 9-10 during that stretch and have dropped out of first place for the first time since May 1st.
Ironically, the offensive woes that hampered the Braves in their last meeting with the Phillies, have seemingly been solved and now take up residence in Philadelphia.
The Phils have dropped seven of their past nine games, having been shut out five times during that span.
As a whole, they’ve hit a dismal .187 with a .264 on base percentage, a .257 slugging percentage and just one home run.
This is a serious concern for a club that supposedly boasts one of the most feared offensive units in the game. The Phillies ongoing struggles with the bat have been a far cry from the explosive power the team had come to enjoy.
For Atlanta, the timing couldn’t be more perfect.
The nine runs the Braves scored on Monday were two more than they’d scored in each of their first two series losses to the Phillies.
While Atlanta’s offense was befuddling to watch in the early going this season, the turnaround of Troy Glaus is a big reason why the Braves have been able to right the ship.
No one had been more critical of and frustrated by Glaus than me, but I will give credit where credit is due.
Glaus’ red-hot May where he has hit. 330 with three doubles, six home runs, and 28 RBI in 28 games is one of the greatest single months ever enjoyed by a player.
Since May 14 when Bobby Cox permanently moved Martin Prado to the leadoff spot and Jason Heyward into the No. 2 hole ahead of Jones, Glaus has been a run-producing machine.
As a result, he has driven in 14 runs in 17 games with four home runs.
Also interestingly to note, as I suggested in my last blog , having continuity in a lineup that had so many struggling hitters, could prove to breed successful results.
That has been the case for Atlanta. As the roles in the Braves lineup have become solidified, the proof is in the numbers.
The rest of Atlanta’s hitters have found a newfound comfort and confidence that has now transcended onto the field and in the standings.
But, there is no time for complacency.
The next two games against the Phillies loom as large as ever as the Braves look to not only stay in first place but to build upon their lead.
With a good chunk of the season left, it is awfully early to gauge how the season may end. But, the Braves may have history on their side.
The last time Atlanta was in first place on June 1 was in 2005, which just so happens to be the last year they made the playoffs.
Also, 66% of the teams that are atop their division on the first of June, have made it into postseason play.
Will the same ring true for the 2010 Atlanta Braves?
Only time will tell.
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