In the aftermath of All-Star catcher Brian McCann’s 1,000th hit Monday night, the six-time all star and five-time silver slugger was asked in a pre-game interview with Major League Baseball, “Is this the best Braves team you’ve played on??” His answer was a resounding yes.
In the series finale against the Pittsburgh Pirates the Braves showed glimpses of why they have been so successful this season: quality starting pitching, the long ball and excellent production outside of the starting lineup.
Atlanta swept the Pirates in a three-game series after a 5-0 victory Wednesday afternoon. Bench players Evan Gattis and Gerald Laird hit back-to-back homers in the sixth to propel the Braves to a five-game win streak. Rookie Julio Terran pitched eight solid innings with 11 strikeouts giving up just one hit.
The notion that this Braves team is the best since McCann’s inaugural 2005 season isn’t without merit, but it is hard to fathom. McCann has played with the likes of Andruw Jones, Brian Jordan, John Smoltz and Braves legend Chipper Jones.
“I just feel like offensively, defensively and pitching, this team has a lot more talent,” McCann said. “We’re off to a good start but only time will tell.”
The talented pitching McCann mentioned was on display Wednesday afternoon when Braves prospect Terran came just four outs shy of pitching a no hitter against the Pirates. Even though the season hasn’t concluded, players are in agreement with McCann’s statements.
Eleven-year veteran Laird said this team is one of the most talented organizations he has ever been apart of as well. The Braves catcher has played with the Texas Rangers, St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers, who made a World Series appearance last year.
“The [Tigers] had a lot of power but this team can beat you in so many ways. Definitely one of the most talented I’ve been a part of,” Laird said.
So is this the best Braves team in the past ten years? No. But they do have the potential to be.
Over the years Braves’ President John Schuerholz and Braves’ General Manager Frank Wren have brought excitement to the city of Atlanta with blockbuster trades and offseason acquisitions. This year was no different when Atlanta executives brought together the bash brothers duo of Justin and B.J. Upton.
The Braves have already been off to one of the hottest starts in team history, posting an 11-1 record in the beginning of the season. Atlanta’s rookie sensation Evan Gattis ranks second on the team in home runs (13) and was awarded his second consecutive National League Rookie of the Month Award. Braves outfielder Justin Upton leads all N.L. outfielders in fan voting for the All-Star Game and leads the major leagues in home runs (14). Upton’s 12 home runs in one month has already drawn comparisons to Chipper Jones when he won a batting title in 2008.
Atlanta’s starting pitching has been stellar throughout the season too. Since the 2012 All-Star break the Braves have two pitchers (Kris Medlen, Mike Minor) ranked in the top three of ERA leaders in MLB.
From top to bottom the Braves starting lineup creates problems for any pitcher but their bench has been heralded as one of the best in years.
“We are just deep at every position,” said Uggla, who has been apart of the Braves since 2010. ‘”W have guys that can step in at anytime and produce.”