The Braves enter the 2013 All-Star Break with a 54-41 record and a six game lead in the National League East. This is a team that battled injuries to all three starting outfielders, Freddie Freeman, Tommy John surgeries to both Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty and in the final weekend of the first half, the entire outfield due to injuries within a 24 hour span.
So, the question is, how have they gotten here? Well, it’s simple. I’d like to highlight three players who AREN’T heading to the All-Star Game at Citi Field, but certainly have been team All-Stars when it comes to the 2013 Atlanta Braves…
Evan Gattis – “El Oso Blanco” took Braves Country by storm, winning back-to-back Rookie of the Month awards in April and May. He wasted no time, homering in just his second big league at bat against former Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay. Gattis belted 6 home runs and drove in 16 runs in each of his first two months in the Majors. Four of those long balls came in pinch hit situations, something Gattis had only done ONCE before in the Minor Leagues. Unfortunately, an oblique injury forced Gattis to miss nearly a month. However, the good news he’s healthy and will be a very important piece for the Braves as they embark on the stretch run in the second half.
Chris Johnson – When the Braves acquired Justin Upton from the D-Backs, most viewed Chris Johnson as a “throw in.” Losing a guy like Prado could have been devastating, however, Chris Johnson has been nothing short of outstanding hitting .330 with 6 homers and 31 RBI in 78 first half contests. Chris told me on Saturday that he’s benefitted from playing on a daily basis after the Braves traded Juan Francisco, but that he still hopes to improve his defense in the second half.
Luis Avilan – Many will remember how important Luis Avilan was to the Braves success when he was called up from Double-A Mississippi in 2012. However, when both Venters and O’Flaherty were lost for the season, Luis Avilan stepped up and did so in a big way. While he may not garner National headlines or attention, Avilan quietly comes in and gets the job done on a daily basis for the Braves. In 43 appearances, Avilan is 2-0 with a 1.40 ERA and hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last 22 appearances.
As the Braves embark in the second half, the season will transition from a marathon to a sprint as there’s just 67 games remaining in the regular season. If last season taught us anything, it’s that winning a division holds even more importance with the addition of the second wild card. All last season, the Braves were concerned about an entire season coming down to one game. They don’t want to let the sour taste of the end of 2012 carry over into another offseason.
For the latest on the Braves, follow Braves Radio Network Reporter Kevin McAlpin on Twitter (@KevinMcAlpin).
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