By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support local journalism.
COMMENTARY: Braves turning a corner, Acuña looking sharp
braves-6-8-22
Ronald Acuña Jr. hits a home run against the Oakland A’s on Tuesday, June 7. (Photo courtesy of Curtis Compton/AJC)

Just a couple weeks ago, the Atlanta Braves were sitting at a 23-27 record and close to fourth place in the National League East Division.

But with the help of a healthy Ronald Acuña Jr., the Braves have won 11 straight games and are inching closer to the top of the wild-card standings.

As a whole, the Braves looked refreshed after winning the series finale against Arizona, sweeping Colorado and winning the first of a quick two-game set against Oakland.

Acuña has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball as of late, having muscled out 33 hits and 15 runs batted in the first 27 games he played since returning to the lineup. 

He has continued to improve as the Braves have, hitting at a .400 clip over the first seven games of the winning streak and and smashing two home runs in the first win against Oakland.

“He’s an elite talent, a special talent,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s something else when he gets on one of those streaks. Hopefully, we can continue to bring him along and get him to that date when we can take all the shackles off and turn him loose.”

The pitching rotation has been led by Kyle Wright and Max Fried, who have maintained earned run averages of 2.57 and 2.64, respectively.

Wright began his season with a 1.13 ERA after four starts before two outings where he gave up a combined nine runs. 

Since then, he has come back closer to his early form and had two shutouts in four starts. 

Fried has been particularly effective in his past five outings, giving up a combined seven earned runs across 32 innings. 

His strongest outing came recently at the Rockies, where he tamed the hitter-friendly Coors Field with eight shutout innings.

The Braves may have also found an effective fifth man in the rotation during the recent upturn with 2020 draft pick Spencer Strider. He had made 11 bullpen appearances in middle relief before making his first start on May 30 at Arizona.

His first start ended with three earned runs in just over four innings but was affected by errors from the defense behind him. The second start at Colorado showed improvements and gave him a fairer scoreline of one earned run in four innings. 

His third start was the strongest, shutting out Pittsburgh in 5 and two-thirds innings. 

Strider’s quick rise to the major league level has been due in part to his ability to stabilize games and periodically reach triple digits on the radar gun. His advantage against hitters comes when he uses off-speed pitches early in an at-bat to leave batters guessing before he uses his heat.

“I started in Low A last year and expected to be there the entire season,” Strider told MLB.com earlier this season. “A year ago, my vision for how I was going to get to the big leagues was a lot different, a lot longer.”

With the excitement around Acuña, Strider and the overall improvements on the team, the Braves can look forward to fighting for a playoff spot after beginning the season with middling results.

With the expanded playoff format implemented for this season, the Braves are now the No. 6 seed in the NL as of Monday, June 13.

Atlanta continued its winning streak by defeating Oakland again and then sweeping Pittsburgh in four games.