mostlycloudy
Friday July 20th, 2018 4:57AM

Like last year's Twins, young Braves ahead of schedule

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

On the morning of June 18 two years ago, the Atlanta Braves were 21-46. Now they're atop the NL East.

Atlanta has turned its stocked farm system into a major league contender faster than expected, and after Sunday's 4-1 win over San Diego, the Braves lead second-place Washington by 3 1/2 games. At 42-29, they're even with Milwaukee for the National League's best record and look poised to be a factor in what should be an entertaining race for that league's five postseason spots.

After three straight seasons with at least 90 losses, Atlanta is making a jump similar to what Minnesota did a season ago, when the Twins improved from 59 wins to 85 and earned a wild card.

If you're worried Atlanta is a fluke, there aren't many obvious red flags. The Braves have a run differential of plus-67, the second-best mark in the NL. They've been fortunate at times (11-4 in one-run games) and unfortunate at times (1-6 in extra innings).

The Braves are second in the NL in OPS after finishing 11th a year ago. Their ERA has improved from 12th to fifth. They have an MVP candidate in slugger Freddie Freeman, and 21-year-old second baseman Ozzie Albies has 16 home runs. Outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. is on the disabled list after a knee injury, but he's been considered one of the game's top prospects. Shortstop Dansby Swanson, the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft, has improved his OPS from .636 a season ago to .737.

That formula — Freeman surrounded by young standouts — could serve the Braves well for a while, and Atlanta has also received a lift from some older contributors. Nick Markakis is hitting .327, and Anibal Sanchez is 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA for the Braves after signing a minor league contract before the season.

In November, Atlanta was hit with major penalties for circumventing international signing rules. That might hurt the Braves in the future, but it doesn't seem to have had much of an effect on their ability to compete in 2018.

Other developments from around the majors:

MIDSEASON RUN

The Dodgers are 11-3 in June and have recovered from their poor start. They now trail Arizona by just 1 1/2 games atop the NL West.

Los Angeles can hope this season is following a similar trajectory to 2017, when the Dodgers went 21-7 in June on their way to 104 wins.

HIGHLIGHT

If you're concerned about pace of play in baseball, you probably weren't crazy about Joe Maddon's maneuvering Wednesday. Maddon began the bottom of the eighth by bringing Steve Cishek in to pitch for the Cubs. After a single, Brian Duensing came on to pitch, but Cishek stayed in the game in left field. That enabled Cishek to go back to the mound one out later, with Duensing taking over in left. Duensing eventually went back to pitch and finished out the inning.

It was a clever way for Maddon to keep both pitchers available throughout the inning, but Chicago still lost 1-0 to Milwaukee.

LINE OF THE WEEK

San Diego's Freddy Galvis went 5 for 5, including a three-run homer, in a 9-3 win over Atlanta on Friday night. Galvis drove in four runs in the game.

___

For more AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

___

Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Baseball , AP Sports - Major League Baseball, AP Sports - Minor League Baseball
© Copyright 2018 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Like last year's Twins, young Braves ahead of schedule
Atlanta has turned its stocked farm system into a major league contender faster than expected
3:09AM ( 22 minutes ago )
First lady Melania Trump "hates" to see families separated
First lady Melania Trump "hates" to see families separated at the border, hopes country is one that 'governs with heart'
3:00AM ( 32 minutes ago )
LEADING OFF: Astros go for team record-tying 12th win in row
LEADING OFF: Astros try for team record-tying 12th win in row, Yankees and Nationals back for double dip, Colon goes for Dominican mark
2:31AM ( 1 hour ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Texas Tech stuns Gators 6-3 in College World Series opener
Texas Tech stuns defending national champion Florida with 6-3 win in College World Series
1:13AM ( 2 hours ago )
Flaherty, Carpenter help Cardinals shut down Cubs 5-0
Jack Flaherty and four relievers combined on a four-hitter, Matt Carpenter homered and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Chicago Cubs 5-0
12:53AM ( 2 hours ago )
Strange: Koepka has what it takes to win 3 in a row
Curtis Strange knows what it takes to win back-to-back U.S. Open titles and he thinks Brooks Koepka can win again next year at Pebble Beach
10:27PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Sports
Maradona responds to report of racist gesture to Asian fan
Diego Maradona has given his version of an exchange with an Asian fan at a World Cup game in Moscow that witnesses perceived as racist
7:58AM ( 19 hours ago )
LEADING OFF: Old-Timers' Day at Yankee Stadium, Astros surge
LEADING OFF: Old-Timers' Day at Yankee Stadium, Astros surging, Indians check Carrasco
1:48AM ( 1 day ago )
LeBlanc shuts down Red Sox in Mariners' 1-0 win
Wade LeBlanc pitched into the eighth inning and Nelson Cruz had an RBI single as the Seattle Mariners beat the Boston Red Sox 1-0
12:16AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Online Baseball
Scherzer loses 2nd start in row, Blue Jays blank Nats 2-0
Max Scherzer lost his second straight start for the first time since 2015 when Marco Estrada pitched 6 2-3 shutout innings and Devon Travis homered for the Toronto Blue Jays in a 2-0 win over the Washington Nationals
8:01PM ( 1 day ago )
Carrasco hit on right arm by liner, Twins beat Indians 9-3
Indians pitcher Carrasco hit by line drive; Twins ride Rosario's big day to 9-3 victory
7:22PM ( 1 day ago )
Giants' Longoria having hand surgery, hopes to return soon
San Francisco Giants third baseman Evan Longoria says he has elected to have surgery on his broken left hand and hopes to return soon after the All-Star break
7:11PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Sports - Major League Baseball
Cardinals' Poncedeleon reaches majors after head injury
A little more than a year after a life-threatening brain injury, Daniel Poncedeleon is ready to make his major league debut
9:45PM ( 6 days ago )
Pirates 3B Kang says he's given up drinking after DUI arrest
Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang says he's been sober since a DUI arrest in December, 2016 that threatened to derail his career
6:45PM ( 1 week ago )
LEADING OFF: Reyes returns to Cards, Scherzer seeks No. 9
LEADING OFF: Alex Reyes returns to Cardinals, Scherzer seeks No. 9, Ohtani back on the mound for LAA
2:19AM ( 2 weeks ago )
AP Sports - Minor League Baseball
First lady Melania Trump "hates" to see families separated
First lady Melania Trump "hates" to see families separated at the border, hopes country is one that 'governs with heart'
3:00AM ( 32 minutes ago )
LEADING OFF: Astros go for team record-tying 12th win in row
LEADING OFF: Astros try for team record-tying 12th win in row, Yankees and Nationals back for double dip, Colon goes for Dominican mark
2:31AM ( 1 hour ago )
Koepka's golf legacy secured after 2nd straight Open win
Brooks Koepka's golf legacy secured after 2nd straight Open win; he goes for No. 3 next year at Pebble Beach
2:28AM ( 1 hour ago )
German leaders mull next steps in migration standoff
Leaders of Germany's governing conservative parties are holding separate meetings to mull their next steps in a dispute over migration that has escalated into a threat to Chancellor Angela Merkel's government
2:14AM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: More than 210 injured in Osaka-area earthquake
Authorities in western Japan say the number of people treated for injuries suffered in a strong earthquake now exceeds 210
2:13AM ( 1 hour ago )