Braves youngster Alex Wood gave up one run over six innings in his start on Sunday night against the Phillies — a start in which Delmon Young struck out four times, seeing a total of 15 pitches — to help the Braves to another win. It was their tenth in a row. Meanwhile, the Phillies have gone 1-9 in that stretch. The Nationals have gone a more respectable 6-4. But everyone, obviously, has lost ground and the Braves now sit atop the NL East with a staggering 12.5 game lead.
The winning streak is impressive for a few reasons. First it began as the Braves lost Tim Hudson for the season, making many wonder if they’d have the starting pitching to maintain their division lead. Well, during the winning streak they’ve allowed more than four runs only once and three runs or fewer in seven of those games. Both the starters and the bullpen have been pretty fantastic.
Also impressive: the offensive contributions have come from a number of players. Chris Johnson is on fire, hitting nearly .350. Justin Upton and Jason Heyward are heating up after extended periods of “meh” since April. Even B.J. Upton has gotten into the act. The Braves have had various players carrying them on offense at times this season while most other bats have flailed (Justin Upton in April, Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman at times since then) but now they are finally seeing something more akin to a balanced attack.
Finally, it’s been interesting to see the streak go down against decent competition: the Braves have swept the Cardinals and a decent Rockies team and now they’ve dispatched a would-be division rival in the Phillies. Beginning today they play three against the Nats. While a 12.5 game lead is huge — ESPN has the Braves at a 99.9% probability of making the playoffs – a sweep of the Nats this week would basically break their opposition’s back.
Of course this is the Braves, a team which choked away a big division lead just two years ago. It just wasn’t this big, and for that to happen now would require something in baseball the likes of which is rarely if ever seen.