Jun 18, 2013, 5:14 PM EST
|Photo by USA Today|
By Steve Roney
Though the standings remain unchanged, the dogfight between the Nationals and Phillies for second place is perhaps the most intriguing story in an otherwise underwhelming division. Can the Nats finally shape up and pull away? How long can Domonic Brown prop up the Phillies? Both teams could still catch the first place Braves, of course, but as the mercury rises neither team really feels up to the challenge.
Atlanta Braves (42 – 28)
Freddie Freeman's two-run blast in the bottom of the ninth last night gave the Braves a thrilling 2-1 victory over the Mets, as well as a three-game winning streak after dropping four straight. Oddly enough, the Braves have lost in bunches this season, with five losing streaks of at least three games, though they've counterbalanced those skids with winning streaks of ten, eight, and five games. And yes, if you throw out their 13-2 start, they're just 29-26 since — but those first 15 games count for just as much as the last 15, and the lead they have is the biggest in baseball. They say that what matters most is how your finish, and not how you start…but if you sprint out of the gate faster than anyone else, sometimes you can coast to the finish line. Ask Usain Bolt.
Aside from Freeman, who has proven to be far and away Atlanta's best hitter, the catching duo of Evan Gattis and Brian McCann has been impressively powerful (a combined 21 home runs and 51 RBI), and Chris Johnson has given them good production at third. The expected boost provided by starter Brandon Beachy will have to wait a bit, however, as word came today that he's been scratched from a doubleheader start against New York this afternoon. An MRI was negative, showing only fluid in his surgically repaired elbow, but the Braves can wait to debut Beachy with five good-or-better starters already in the mix.
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY
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SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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