The Atlanta Braves used a heavy dose of the long ball in its series finale over the Arizona Diamondbacks, completing a three-game sweep. That followed a good trend. When the Braves are going yard the results are good; the only question is can Atlanta win games without hitting home runs?
The Braves bombarded Arizona with three home runs in a 6-2 victory over the first place N.L. West team. Dan Uggla, Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman all went yard, pushing Atlanta’s N.L. East lead to 6.5 games.
The Braves rank third in the Major Leagues with 102 home runs and have an impressive 44-9 record in games that a player hits at least one homer.
However, at times this season Atlanta has struggled to manufacture its runs. The team is hitting just .227 with runners in scoring position, ranking them 22nd in the Majors, and have a 4-25 record in games which none of its players hit a home run.
Uggla, who has improved his batting average since ordering contact lenses, admits he may be responsible for some of the Braves hitting woes with runners in scoring position.
“We need to get better a situational hitting and believe me I am leading the pack in people that needs to get better at situational hitting,” said Uggla, who hit his 14th homer of the season in the fifth inning.
Freeman is one of the few players in the lineup hitting well with runners in scoring position. The Braves’ first baseman is hitting for a .422 average with 38 RBI this season with runners at second or third.
“It’s fun to watch him hit with runners on base,” Uggla said of Freeman. “They don’t even have to be in scoring position, he just locks on and makes adjustments. I think we have the personnel and the lineup to make the adjustments and get better at our situational hitting.”
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has made adjustments to the lineup by batting McCann behind Freeman in the lineup, which yielded positive results in Sunday’s game.
“With McCann behind [Freeman] now, and if McCann hits like the old McCann, I think it will be difficult for opposing pitchers to pitch around Freeman,” Gonzalez said.
Barring an end of the year melt down, Atlanta look poised to capture its first N.L. East Division title since the 2005 season. But history shows the Braves won’t win if they rely on the homers.
The last Atlanta team to rely this heavily on the long ball was the 2003 Braves, a team that hit 100 home runs in just 63 games, finishing with a club-record of 235 homers on the year. That team lost in a five game series 3-2 in the first round of the playoffs to the Chicago Cubs and lost two of three games in which Atlanta failed to hit a home run.
The 2013 Braves have a quality bullpen and starting pitching to supplement a low scoring affair, but the team as a whole will have to play better with runners on base to succeed in the postseason.
“We’re in the perfect place,” Gonzalez said. “There’s not a perfect team out there. We’re in first place and pitching good and feel like we’re still not swinging the bats like we’re capable of.”