May 13, 2014, 1:31 PM EST
For a few weeks, it looked like the Braves were in the midst of an early season tailspin. Losers of seven straight games, their longest losing streak in two years, Atlanta saw its reign as division leader slip away as the Nationals and Marlins kept creeping up the standings. But after a solid week, the Braves were able to bounce back, snapping out of the losing streak by rattling off four wins in five games to regain their place atop the NL East.
And — no surprise — pitching led the way for Atlanta. In their four wins, the Braves rotation delivered quality starts in each game, allowing no more than two runs. Their pitching staff isn’t as deep as it was a year ago because of all the injuries suffered earlier in the year, but they still have enough talent to keep a club afloat. They might have to, after all, as the Braves are dead last in the majors in runs scored.
Raise your hand if you thought the Marlins would have a winning record in May and sitting in second place in the NL East. Don’t worry, we’ll wait.
It may not always look pretty, but Miami’s gutting out close games behind the torrid start of slugger Giancarlo Stanton, as well as a pitching staff that features one of the game’s brightest young starters in Jose Fernandez. That being said, it wasn’t the best of weeks for Marlins, as they got swept in a four game series by the Padres. To make matters worse, the team got bad news Monday as reports surfaced that Fernandez’ elbow injury may lead to him having to undergo Tommy John surgery, which would end his season.
Needless to say, losing Fernandez would be a humungous blow, and not just to the team. The 21 year old prospect would join a long line of stud pitchers around the majors that have been shelved this year due to Tommy John surgery, and would continue a troubling trend in a league that wants its top pitchers on display.
NEW YORK METS
It was another tough week for the Mets, and once again, their bullpen continues to rear its ugly head. While getting swept by the Marlins early last week, the Mets allowed two of those three losses to come via a walk-off hit. And if that wasn’t enough, in the very next series against the Phillies, late-inning runs doomed New York in two more losses. Each loss seems to serve as another brutal reminder that their relievers just aren’t getting it done this year.
The Mets did end the week on a high note, however, taking the series finale against Philadelphia and then starting off the “Subway Series” with a 7-6 win over the Yankees. After they’re done with that set, they’ll head south on 95 to face the Nationals in DC.
Philly has probably had the roughtest week of all the division teams, losing five of their last seven games and dropping into last place behind the Mets.
The issue with the Phillies is simple: They are decidedly average-to-below average in many facets of the game. Right now they’re 24th in runs, scoring 3.9 per game, and are 24th in team ERA. The core players who were apart of the perennial playoff teams of recent years are getting older and, while not terrible, aren’t exactly putting up numbers that jump off the page. Guys like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Ruiz aren’t who they once were a few years ago, and the pitching staff doesn’t have anyone who’s pitched like an ace so far.
If the Phillies want to get back into this race, now would be an opportune time, as 14 of their next 17 games will be at home.
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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