It might sound odd, but the series between the Atlanta Braves and the Cincinnati Reds felt like postseason baseball. The two teams look incredible and the games were back-and-forth high-scoring battles. Both teams entered the weekend on winning streaks and, in a way, their matchup epitomized this week in baseball.
The two teams combined for 47 runs in the three-game set. Every game in the series was decided by one run. There were many moments when a game could’ve swung one way or the other and flipped this series. That is postseason baseball. It’s when every pitch, every plate appearance, and every swing has significance. That’s where we start this week, with the Braves and the Reds and their series.
What You Missed Last Week in Baseball
Braves & Reds Give Us Postseason Baseball
The Reds entered the series looking unbeatable. They won 11 games in a row heading into the weekend series, including sweeping the Houston Astros, the defending World Series champion. With the Elly De La Cruz addition, the lineup has become tough to stop, scoring 4.92 runs per game including seven runs per game in the past 12 games. The rookie makes everyone in the lineup better from Jake Fraley to TJ Freidl to recent callup and longtime Red, Joey Votto.
De La Cruz’s impact was seen firsthand in Friday’s game. He hit for the cycle to drive in four runs and circle the bases three times. He’s a force in the heart of the lineup that forces opponents to pitch around him as he not only can power the ball for a homer but if it’s in play, it’s likely extra bases. This was helped by Votto’s presence as well with the veteran not only returning but hitting two home runs in the 11-10 win. With this lineup playing the way it does, it makes you wonder how far the Reds can go this season. Do they need pitching help? Yes. Do they need bullpen help? Alexis Diaz proved otherwise with his save in the Friday win.
That said, the Braves reminded the Reds of the gap between a good and great team in the National League. They took the next two games of the series with their lineup waking up and taking over the games. Matt Olson had two homers and drove in five runs while Ronald Acuna Jr. had three hits in the two wins. The Braves have a lineup that is star-studded and deep enough to take over a game at any point. Their batting order is what the Reds aspire to be someday.
And that is in a lot of ways how the series can be described. The Braves have been there and done that. They have a rotation that can win a World Series, as they’ve shown previously. They have a lineup built for October. The Reds are only entering their contention window and are seeing the gap. They know that someday they can reach the Braves level but they got some work to do.
There was a lot of excitement for the London Series between the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals. Like the Field of Dreams game last year (and the year before that), the intrigue of playing major league baseball in a field not designed for that brings a level of excitement.
The games themselves weren’t that entertaining. The Cubs run away with the opening game and then scored four runs before noon (central time) only to allow seven runs after the opening frame and lose 7-5. However, a few things stood out from the game that are with noting.
The surface was different and it felt that way. Instead of a typical grass and sand field, London Stadium had a surface that resembled more of what the Toronto Blue Jays have. The ball was more lively and bounced with more speed and height while ground balls took off. It’s something that always seems to be a throwback to the 80s when every ballpark was astroturf and the game was built on speed.
The other part of this series is the fact that MLB is trying to grow the game and London is just another destination. Europe has felt like a frontier that baseball has yet to plant its flag into and there’s no shortage of cities that can be next.
Are the Mets Done?
Sunday’s loss has to be a low point for the New York Mets. With a 6-3 lead in the eighth inning, they looked like they were going to end the weekend series on a high note against the Philadelphia Phillies. The bullpen hasn’t been a strength but with David Robertson ready to close things out, it looked like a sure win. But, manager Buck Showalter didn’t bring in Robertson. Instead, he went with Josh Walker, who pitched six innings this year, and then Jeff Brigham to clean up the mess Walker made.
The Mets allowed four runs in the inning to lose the game 7-6. They’ve now dropped to 35-42 on the season, remain in fourth place in their division, and are eight games out of a wild card spot. The Mets have spent to the point where .500 ball would be a disappointment, they are seven games behind .500 at the moment. To make things worse, they trail the Phillies, who are in third place in the division, by five games while leading the Washington Nationals by five games. Long story short, they trail the third-place team by the same number of games as the last-place team in their division.
The clock was already ticking on Showalter. The question is if this weekend was the last straw. Every game counts for the Mets and a blown lead like Sunday’s game was one that fell on the manager. He had plenty of chances to turn to his closer to end the game but kept Robertson in the bullpen and allowed the Phillies to win. It’s ironically, the same big mistake he made in Baltimore with the Orioles in the 2016 wild card game. In the game, he kept Zack Britton in the bullpen with the game tied in extra innings as he was having his closer for a save situation. Now, that mistake could be his lasting impression in New York.
Giants Surprise Surge in the National League
The San Francisco Giants have snuck up on everyone. A 10-game win streak followed by back-to-back wins put them in second place in the National League West Division, only 2.5 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks, the team they took the weekend series against. The Giants are 44-34 and have the second wild card spot in the National League.
The question is what makes the Giants good? The answer is the same thing that made them dominant in 2021. They have elite pitching or more accurately, good pitching behind a good enough fielding team. On top of that, they have a lineup that has depth with six active batters having an OPS+ over 100. The Giants don’t have one intimidating bat in their lineup but they have multiple tough outs in every game. It makes their lineup one that nobody wants to face.
The Giants aren’t going to replicate their 2021 season where they won 107 games. However, this is a team that will be tough to deal with and they can easily snag one of the wild card spots in the National League.
Hot & Cold Streaks Galore
The last big thought from this week was the surprising number of hot streaks and cold streaks in baseball. The Reds won 12 games in a row while the Braves won eight straight and nine of the last 10 games. The Giants won 10 in a row while the Miami Marlins won six of eight. The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 10 games in a row and 12 of their last 13 while the Oakland A’s lost eight consecutive games and 10 of their last 11. It was one of those stretches where if your team wasn’t on a streak, something wasn’t right.
Other Notes From This Week in Baseball
- The Los Angeles Angels put a beatdown on the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night. They scored 25 runs, 13 of them in one inning, to take the game. Unfortunately for them, momentum is only as good as their next starting pitcher. They lost the Friday game and the Sunday game to lose the series and fall out of the wild card position.
- I hope you like Sox. The Chicago White Sox face the Boston Red Sox this weekend. Otherwise, the series felt rather meaningless are both teams are going nowhere this season. To be fair, the Red Sox are a game above .500 but their luck has them in baseball’s best division so they are in last place.
- The New York Yankees took two of three against the Seattle Mariners and two of three against the Texas Rangers. They did this while scoring a total of 17 runs in the last six games. Will they make the postseason on the backs of dominant starting pitching? We’ll find out.
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