The Atlanta Braves have a tough month ahead of them with 25 games in 29 days. 14 of these 25 games will be against the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies. That being said, the NL East will more than likely be decided in the last ten games of the season. Last year, the Braves finished 16-12 in September. The team will need a similar finish this season to ensure a second consecutive NL East title is brought home to Atlanta. That being said, the performance of these five Braves players will determine how this final month plays out for the Braves.
Five Braves Players That Must Perform in September
1. Freddie Freeman
This is a no brainer. Freddie Freeman is arguably one of the most underrated MLB players in the game today. However, his clutch hitting and elite defensive play does not go unnoticed by the fans in Atlanta. Freeman is currently batting .298, with a career-high in home runs (36) this season. His patience at the plate will be crucial throughout September. If Freeman can remain patient and avoid many strikeouts, while continuing his stellar defense, the Braves will have an easy journey to the postseason.
What to Watch For: Freeman v. Nationals pitching.
2. Julio Teheran
This may shock some. Julio Teheran has always worried many Braves fans over the years. That being said, why is he so important during September? Teheran has had an interesting year, to say the least. In the month of May, Julio had an ERA (earned run average) of less than 1.00. The very next month, his ERA was over 5.00. In his past ten starts, he is 3-2. However, this isn’t due to his pitching as much as it is the lack of offense provided for him.
The Braves need the Julio Teheran from May of 2019 to show up. As long as he can give the Braves five solid innings with each start, the offense can provide the rest and Julio can solidify his spot on the postseason roster.
What to Watch For: The first two innings of every start.
3. Ronald Acuna Jr.
Ronald Acuna Jr. is looking to become the fifth MLB player ever to reach the 40-40 club. However, the young star cannot let his personal goals get in the way of the chase for a division title. The Braves need Acuna to continue his aggressiveness at the plate as the leadoff man. When Ronald gets on base, it changes the whole dynamic of a pitcher’s routine and strategy. All this being said, opposing teams should not forget Acuna’s arm strength. If Acuna makes it to 40 home runs and throws a runner or two out in September, he will have contributed his share to the team.
What to Watch For: 1st pitch of every at bat.
4. Tyler Flowers
Tyler Flowers is a veteran of the game and a fairly decent defensive catcher. However, as of late, Flowers has struggled to see the ball behind the plate and not had the greatest of luck while batting. Why does Flowers need to perform? It’s not as much to help the Braves as much as it is to ensure he makes the postseason roster. Despite being with the Braves since 2016, he is not a definite lock to be on the Braves playoff roster. With the recent signing of Francisco Cervelli and Brian McCann soon to be coming off of the injured list, Flowers may be fighting for his position. He must perform better at the plate than his current .236 average.
What to Watch For: Less errors and more hits.
5. Mark Melancon
The Atlanta Braves need assurance. The team and fans need to KNOW when their closer goes to the mound in the playoffs, that a lead is safe. When Mark Melancon came to the Braves at the trade deadline, it got off to a worrisome start. However, in his last 4.1 innings pitched, he has five strikeouts and three saves. Melancon needs to close out the final month of the season with no blown saves. This will allow the team to breathe a sigh of relief before October baseball begins.
What to Watch For: Melancon’s performance in one-run games.
The Braves will need more than these five players to perform throughout the month of September. However, the five mentioned above are crucial pieces to bringing the city of Atlanta a second straight NL East title. Look for veterans to step up and help guide the young players throughout the final month of the season.
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