Atlanta Braves Swept By the Marlins While Jeff Francoeur Eclipses .300

Kevin MarkumCorrespondent IApril 17, 2009

ATLANTA - APRIL 10: Outfielder Jeff Francoeur #7 of the Atlanta Braves sets to bat against the Washington Nationals April 10, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

The Braves didn't envision their 5-1 start being downgraded so quickly with a sweep by the Florida Marlins this week.

The pitching that was there in the first week of this season just wasn't there against the fish from Florida.  Relief pitching was most certainly a disaster.

The Braves' lineup also suffered as they were forced to play two of the three games without All-Star third basemen Chipper Jones.

What was a great start, is now a 5-4 record as the Braves begin a nine game road trip where they will face the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Washington Nationals, and the Cincinnati Reds. This could be a good time for a breather as these teams have combined this season for a 9-16 record to begin the season.

What we can say from this series that the Marlins are a great baseball team this year.  While they weren't given credit in early predictions, they are for real. After watching this series, it is easy to see that Hanley Ramirez is the BEST player in baseball.

A bright spot of this sweep by the Marlins was Jeff Francoeur. While his teammates struggled to get good at-bats, "Frenchy" had five hits in only 11 at-bats.  He pulled his average up from .250 to .306.  He also had two RBI in Thursdays contest.

Jeff Francoeur is viewed by many to still be struggling, even if he is temporarily over the .300 mark. What I see is that he has hit in all but one of the Braves' nine games this season.

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Of course you remember the struggles that the rising star had last season batting just .239 with 11 HRs.

While the power is not completely back for Jeff yet, he is driving in runs and hitting the balls to gap which is just as important. He is also striking out less often (2008=18.5%/AB vs. 2009=13.9%/AB). Overall, I feel like he is seeing the ball much better and is able to put the bat on the ball.

If Francoeur can have some success, the Braves are in for a better season this year.

Another point of interest for Brave fans is the Tom Glavine situation. Apparently in his mission of getting back the Braves starting rotation from surgery this past year, his shoulder is faltering.

Glavine is a guy that will be loved and respected by not only Braves' fans, but baseball fans alike. It is looking likely that Glavine could retire soon, but he will wait and see how his shoulder reacts over the next week or two.

While the Brave rotation has been pretty good so far this season, the addition of Tommy Hanson from Triple-A Gwinnett would be a great benefit to the Braves playoff chances.

It looks as if Jo-Jo Reyes will start in place of Glavine this weekend, but it is only a matter of time before Hanson makes his MLB debut and begins what many believe to be a stellar career like that of Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and John Smoltz.

The Braves will begin their series at Pittsburgh against the Pirates. Jair Jurrjens (2-0, 2.45) is expected to get the start against Paul Maholm (1-0, 1.32 ERA). Game starts at 7:05 ET.

Hopefully the Braves can take a minimum two of three games in this series to get back within a game or two of the NL East leading Florida Marlins.