After playing 26 of their first 40 games, the Braves have FINALLY returned to Turner Field. Back-to-back 10 game, three city trips, along with injuries to key players have taken their toll on the club. However, with all the adversity they’ve been through, the Braves enter a three game weekend series against the Dodgers atop the NL East. Jason Heyward is expected to be activated from the disabled list and be back in the lineup after missing nearly a month after an emergency appendectomy.
Fredi Gonzalez has tinkered with a number of different lineups, trying to find one that works. While Heyward has been out, Jordan Schafer has done an outstanding job as the leadoff man, while Evan Gattis was able to play some left field to keep his bat in the lineup. With Heyward returning, both Gattis and Schafer will see less playing time, but have established themselves as legitimate bats off the bench.
Off to a 13-2 start, we saw how explosive the Braves offense can be. With Heyward, Freeman and McCann all healthy, most in the Clubhouse feel that the best is yet to come for this ball club. While road weary in the middle of May, the Braves have a chance to really establish momentum here at home over the next month and a half. The Nationals don’t appear to be nearly as potent as they were last year, the Phillies have pitching staff issues, and the Mets and Marlins are well, the Mets and Marlins. Entering the weekend of May 17th, the Braves have a half game lead over Washington. Will the Nats go away? Of course they won’t. However, this Braves team is vastly improved from 2012 and appears to have the pieces to contend with the Nationals until the very end.
I said 96 wins prior to Opening Day, and I’m sticking to it. How big was the red hot start by Atlanta? If the Braves only play .500 ball from here on out, they win 86 games. Do we really think this is a .500 team over their last 122 games? I sure don’t!
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