It has been five years since the Atlanta Braves last made an appearance in the playoffs. Back then, they were on a run of 14 consecutive division titles, a record that is unmatched in the history of Major League Baseball.
Through all those years and into this year, there has been one constant for Atlanta and that has been Manager Bobby Cox. This will be Cox's last season on the Braves bench and so far, it has been a memorable one. Coming into Wednesday's action he has the Braves in first place in the National League East with a record of 42-29, good enough for best record in the National League.
The reason for the good record is the team's depth, both in the lineup and the rotation. Martin Prado has been the spark that starts the fire at the lead off spot. He is leading the league with a .340 batting average. First baseman Troy Glaus leads the league in RBI with 55. Glaus has been a pleasant surprise to the Braves and their fans. He was thought to be done after his arthroscopic right shoulder surgery last year. However, since coming to the Braves, he has shown that he has a lot more left in the tank. Rookie Jason Heyward got off to a fantastic start by hitting a home run in his first Major League at-bat. Since then, he is second on the team with 11 homers and 45 RBI. The combination of veteran leadership by Chipper Jones (who is not retiring this year) and savvy young players such as Melky Cabrera, Brian McCann, and Yunel Escobar has been enough to make these Braves very viable this season.
The pitching staff is nothing to sneeze at either. Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, and Tommy Hanson are a formidable staff that any team would love to have. They have combined for 23 wins already; and Hudson leads the team with a 2.34 ERA. Jair Jurrjens, who had 14 wins a year ago is coming back very soon from a hamstring injury. In the bullpen, Peter Moylan has 11 holds and has set things up very nicely for 6-time all-star closer Billy Wagner. He has given up just four runs in 30 appearances, so far. Wagner is the first legitimate closer the Braves have had since their glory days of the 1990's.
The Braves have the hitting, the pitching and the depth and could make for an interesting run the rest of the year. Not only that, but they have motivation to give Bobby Cox the send off that he truly deserves.
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