Another strong week for the Braves is in the books, as they extend their lead in the NL East to seven games. Is it too early to start thinking about the playoffs?
Overall Record: 24-11, 1st place in NL East
Record this week: 6-2
Best moment of the week:
We are once again blessed with a great week in Atlanta. Taking all three from the Marlins and winning two of three against one of this year’s surprise packages in the Orioles constitutes an excellent set of results for the team. There were also a number of standout moments in those games – Michael Harris II’s walkoff in the bottom of the 12th inning on Sunday, Kevin Pillar’s pinch-hit bomb to put the Braves up in the eighth on Saturday, and Marcell Ozuna’s grand slam on Wednesday were all candidates. However, as a sucker for great fielding, I have to go for Ronald Acuña Jr.’s Ichiro-style gunning down of Austin Hays, who was tagging up from second. The play had everything – it was clutch, coming in the 11th inning where every runner counts – it was absurdly athletic, showcasing every bit of Acuña’s 100th-percentile arm strength – and it features Michael Tonkin absolutely POPPING OFF.
Worst moment of the week:
The Orioles came into the series looking to do all they could to prove themselves as real contenders, and they did that by taking the first game of the series in commanding fashion. The worst moment came in the seventh inning – with Max Fried chased from the game after his second throwing error of the game, Anthony Santander swatted a grand slam, and Baltimore sent fourteen hitters to the plate – scoring seven – to put the game out of reach.
Player of the week:
While I thought long and hard about giving this to Marcell Ozuna, who hit four home runs and reached base nine more times this week to drag his line up to a still-team-worst .146/.263/.378, I can’t, in good faith, give him this award without first giving it to Ronald Acuña Jr.. While he had a relatively understated week (for his standards!), he still stole a couple of bases, cranked two homers (which went 448 and 461 feet), had a .400 OBP and starred in the field. To top it off, he also took home NL Player of the Month for April. Not bad, really.
WTF moment of the week:
Ronald Acuña Jr. did have a great week, but even he isn’t immune from a place in this feature. Late in the game in the 14-6 drubbing of the Marlins on Wednesday, Marlins catcher Jacob Stallings came in to pitch. After freezing Ronnie on a fierce 46mph fastball that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the esteemed surroundings of British single-A baseball, Stallings induced a foul ball and turned on the heat to strike Acuña out looking. He’ll be keeping that baseball.
View from the other side:
This week, Orioles superfan Simon provides us with his thoughts on this week’s big series. He’s a great follow on Twitter, providing daily game updates and thoughts on what promises to be a great season in Baltimore. Find him at @Gorilafalls.
Orioles Baby Birds came up against the red-hot NL-leading Braves this week. It was the first real test to see if the Orioles really could be contenders in 2023. The O’s won the initial game after a magical seventh inning Anthony Santander grand slam. The Orioles remained competitive throughout the following two games, matching a dominant Spencer Strider and strong pitching from the Braves bullpen. The O’s managed to keep the Braves to one-run ballgames, with the series finale going 12 innings. Overall, it was a sad 2-1 series loss against a really strong Braves roster. The O’s hopefully demonstrated they definitely can be competitive. Lots of positives for the Orioles to take away from what seemed like a World Series match-up.
We’re up at 9/10! This is really the first week where I’ve felt like my almost comically optimistic prediction of a 108-win season might actually come good. We’ve still been firing on all cylinders without players who are just starting to trickle back from injury, like Orlando Arcia, Travis d’Arnaud and Raisel Iglesias, and there are early indications that the NL East might not be all it was cracked up to be, with only the Braves on a winning record as of the end of the week.
What’s on next week?
The Braves only have five games this week, as they make a trip to the AL East for two games against the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday and Wednesday, and three against the Toronto Blue Jays from Friday to Sunday. The Sunday matchup between Charlie Morton and Yusei Kikuchi figures to be a good one – Kikuchi is 5-0 this year, and appears to be rekindling the stuff that made him such a coveted prospect coming out of Japan.
UK friendly games:
Saturday 13 May @ Blue Jays (8:07pm), Sunday 14 May @ Blue Jays (6:37pm)
Featured image of Michael Harris II by @Braves on Twitter.
Charlie Deeks is the Atlanta Braves correspondent on Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @Omashaft!