ATLANTA — What a difference a week makes. Eight days after calling a rare team meeting, Braves manager Brian Snitker finds his team surging through a winning streak that has reached eight games with a 3-1 win on Thursday Night Pirates at Truist Park.
Max fried escaped multiple threats in six rounds and Adam Duval sparked the first offensive production that led the Braves to their longest winning streak since winning nine consecutive games Aug. 13-22, 2021. The defending World Series champions were four games below .500 (23 -27) when this match eight series started.
“You’re going to have to weather storms,” Snitker said. “You get stretches over the course of six months where you can’t do anything. You have to wear it. And when you do, there’s usually something good on the other side.
A year after winning the World Series when they didn’t have a winning record until August, the Braves never panicked as they struggled through the first two months of this season. But with a strong Mets team sitting atop the National League East, Atlanta recognized winning a fifth straight division title could hinge on turning the tide in this friendly portion of its schedule.
That winning streak consisted of one win over the D-backs, four over the Rockies, two over the A’s and one over the Pirates. By winning those games they were “supposed to win”, the Braves won four games against the Mets and are now just 6 1/2 games out of first place in the NL East.
“We definitely didn’t feel like we were playing by the standards we set for ourselves,” Duvall said. “For some reason, we were unable to participate in this list. It’s nice to bring everyone together sometimes and make sure we’re on the same page, just to refocus a bit and make sure the #1 goal ultimately is to win the match.
Hours before that winning streak began with a June 1 win at Arizona, Snitker gathered his players in the clubhouse and stressed the need for focus. Less than 24 hours earlier, his team had made several base-running errors, thrown to bad ground and squandered a comfortable lead against the D-backs.
“We were playing hard and doing all of that, the train just kind of went off the rails,” Snitker said.
An easy way for a team to recover is to use the type of throwing the Braves have displayed while allowing two runs or less in six of their last eight games. The bullpen continued to be a strength, and the rotation was led by Fried and Kyle Wright, who bolstered their respective All-Star resumes over the past week.
Fried held the Pirates to one run in six innings, but he wasn’t nearly as dominant as he was on Friday, when he allowed just two hits in eight scoreless innings at the Coors Field. But the southpaw used his excellent recovery move to get out of trouble in the first inning and limit the damage while allowing at least two hits in four of the first five innings.
Fried has produced a 2.21 ERA in the 11 starts he has made since he stumbled on Opening Day. As for Duvall, his struggles after a 38-home run season lasted much longer. The veteran outfielder entered June hitting .190 with a .526 OPS. He hit .320 with three doubles, a triple, two home runs and a 1.080 OPS in the seven games he played this month.
“I don’t know if that’s necessarily a good thing, but I’ve learned to deal with tough times,” Duvall said. “I feel like I’ve been to places that aren’t necessarily ideal.”
The Braves’ position just over a week ago was certainly not ideal. But things looked much different now that a powerful and deep formation has begun to take shape.
Ronald Acuña Jr. (1.205), William Contreras (1.102), Duvall (1.080) and Austin Riley (1.054) all produced four-figure OPS this month with at least 20 at-bats.
With that string of success, the Braves regained some of the confidence that helped them through a turnaround that steered them to a World Series title.
“He waits for something to go right instead of waiting for something to go wrong,” Snitker said. “That’s the difference. You can never explain it in this thing, the how or the why.
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