Braves are ready to prove their worth with tough enemies upfront

CHICAGO – Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox has always said, “You play the schedule.” In other words, you don’t change your perspective based on whether the current part of the schedule is easy or difficult.

Well, the Braves have justified themselves by spending the last few weeks cruising through the simplest part of their schedule. But after a 6-0 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Sunday afternoon, it was time to wait for an opportunity to challenge themselves against some of the leading teams in the National League.

“It was a great road trip,” said Ivan Anderson, the Braves’ starting pitcher. “We lost the first two here [in Chicago], so it was hard to put a cap on what was a good trip today. Now, we want to go home and hopefully we are as warm as the weather. ”

After saying goodbye to a 14-game winning streak to start the series this weekend in Chicago, the Braves avoided a three-game sweep with the help of home runs from Travis D’Arnaud and Michael Harris II. D’Arnaud’s three-run homer in the first inning and a single shot from Harris in the fifth inning provide some cushioning for Anderson, who gave up three hits in a scoreless innings of more than 6 2/3.

With the Braves winning 15 of their last 17 games, they have reduced their National League East deficit by five games and are now 5 1/2 games behind first-placed Mets. He achieved this at the expense of the Rockies, A, Pirates and Nationals. But games against teams with a losing record are not a game. Remember, this successful streak was preceded by two ugly losses in Arizona and two interruptions at Wrigley.

Now, the Braves are going home to play four games against the Giants and three against the Dodgers. After facing the NL West Powers, they will travel to Philadelphia for a three-game set against the Phillies Club, which was almost unbeaten in June.

“It’s a difficult path, but everyone goes through it,” said Braves manager Brian Snyder. “I think we did well in this last phase of defeating the teams we want to beat and it’s not easy to do that. That’s really hard to do. “

By July, it will be easy to measure where the Braves stand to win their fifth consecutive NL East crown and second consecutive World Series.

Why are the Braves in good condition now?

Ronald Akuna Jr. and Harris:
A number of issues were resolved when Harris was brought in from Double-A Mississippi on May 28, and on June 1, Acuna began playing daily on the right field. Marcel Ozuna went from defensive responsibility to assigned heater and Adam Duvall became the primary left fielder. Now, the Braves have a great defensive outfield in the game.

Duval has benefited from less stress on his legs when playing in the middle. The veteran outfielder came out with .526 OPS in May and produced .984 OPS this month. He is now meeting expectations after landing in a 38-homer season, and Harris has surpassed expectations by hitting .321 with three homers (all against-field) and .884 OPS.

Harris has calmed concerns about how ready he was when he was promoted from double-A with just 197 games above the high school level under his belt.

“Michael Harris just keeps learning, and the other way around he’s awesome,” Snyder said. “He jumped the ball. How he handled himself is very impressive. ”

The Braves successfully stabilized their rotation after moving Spencer Stryder from bullpen to rotation on May 30th. Stryder’s first start was due to some defensive errors. But he has posted 1.76 ERA in three starts this month. Anderson stumbled against the Nationals on Tuesday, but he has now played in the sixth innings in nine of his last 10 innings. This product at the last two places of rotation has relieved the tension from the bullpen leading to the NL with a 2.92 ERA.

“When it’s your day, you want to go out and perform,” Anderson said. “I think the lineup is the same. They watch the kids go and they want to be a part of it. ”

Yes, despite Matt Olson creating just one .661 OPS in 17 games in June, the lineup looks very deep. But while that was not to be expected on some of Olson’s numbers after replacing Freddie Freeman, his three doubles on Sunday increased his MLB-leading total to 27. He is leading the way in reaching 65 doubles this year. Earl Webb set the MLB single-season record in 1931 with 67 doubles. No player has produced a 60-double season since 1936.

“He hit some balls really well,” Snyder said. “She is OK. So, that’s fine. “