Atlanta Braves: Late-Game Heroics Becoming the Norm for MLB's Hottest Team

Will BrownContributor IMay 19, 2011

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 17:  Brian McCann #16 of the Atlanta Braves trotts down the first base line after hitting a walk-off two-run homer in the 11th inning against the Houston Astros at Turner Field on May 17, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

After struggling to get clutch hits throughout the month of April, the Atlanta Braves are back to doing what made them a playoff team in 2010: hitting in clutch spots and winning close games. 

Just in the past five days the Braves have had five games where they took the lead in the seventh inning or later, winning four of them. Its been a team effort, though Brian McCann has led the way. 

Dan Uggla, the unlucky power-hitting second baseman, started off the week with a eighth-inning home run off of Roy Halladay to give the Braves a 3-2 lead in a game they eventually won.

Then on Monday, Eric Hinske drove in what would be the eventual game-winning run in the seventh inning on a single. It came one inning after Joe Mather tied the game up with a two-run single.

Tuesday began with McCann having a normal day off, watching the offense struggle to score any runs against the Houston Astros.

McCann was called to pinch-hit in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and down by one run. He promptly mashed a home run to center field, sending the game to extra innings.

In the bottom of the 11th, McCann would step up to the plate again and crush a home run directly down the right-field line for the game-winner.

Then, last night in the series-opening game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Braves offense struggled horrifically for the majority of the game against pitcher Joe Saunders. It looked as if the young phenom Julio Teheran would again have a loss with no run support.

In the sixth inning and down 2-0, Chipper Jones hit a double to move Jason Heyward to third base. McCann again came up and managed a sac fly to score Heyward and cut the lead to 2-1. Chipper would be thrown out at third, though, and they were unable to score any more in the sixth.

In the top of the seventh, the Braves were able to take a 3-2 lead. This came about after Brooks Conrad doubled to score Nate McLouth (Conrad would get to third on the throw home) to tie it up. Prado would then promptly hit a sac fly to center to score Conrad.

A wild pitch would allow the Diamondbacks to tie it up in the bottom of the seventh, but it wouldn't be enough to hold off the Braves. 

The Braves didn't score again until the top of the 11th, when Diory Hernandez of all people (he literally had one hit last season) knocked in Uggla to put the Braves ahead 4-3.

The Diamondbacks would end up winning the game in the bottom half of the inning though, as Craig Kimbrel couldn't close the door. 

However, the Braves still currently possess the best record in May at 12-5, and the five-game win streak (prior to the loss to the Diamondbacks) was extremely important to keeping pace and gaining ground with the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Braves are also currently leading the season series against the Phillies, which is a positive sign at any point of the season.

If this clutch play continues, you will see the Braves in the postseason. Who knows, they may even win a division title.