WASHINGTON — It’s warm, like the weather in the nation’s capital on Monday before the skies briefly opened up. Then there’s what the Braves are. The defending World Series champions aren’t just the hottest team in baseball in June, they’re as hot as any team has been all season.
Atlanta remained scorching Monday night, riding away with its 12th straight win, despite losing All-Star second baseman Ozzie Albies to a broken left foot in a 9-5 loss to the Nationals at the Nationals Park. The Majors’ longest winning streak this season is also the Braves’ third-longest streak in the Wild Card era (since 1995), defying the club’s 14-game winning streak in 2013 and 15 in 2000.
And the way they play, they seem able to ride right after those two races.
“That’s the norm here in general,” said Dansby Swanson, who hit one of Atlanta’s five homers on a four-RBI night. “Every night we show up at the ballpark expecting to win. That’s what made this place great for so long. We have players who have the same buy-in and the same attitude. With that kind of mentality and that kind of culture, good things happen.
After a slow start, the Braves are clicking on all cylinders. They get top-to-bottom production from their order, from Ronald Acuña Jr. and Swanson on top to Adam Duvall and rookie Michael Harris II on the bottom, not to mention two impact catchers. The Braves have the lowest ERA in the National League this month, they have arguably the best bullpen in the game, and they lead the NL in tag team home runs.
The Braves outscored opponents by 48 points (83-35) and have a 2.68 team ERA during that streak, now in its third week. The only home run Dylan Lee gave to Lane Thomas on Monday fell short of Atlanta’s season-high five.
In total, the Braves made up 5½ games in the NL East standings during the streak, reducing the Mets’ division lead to five with 100 games remaining.
“It’s not just one thing,” manager Brian Snitker said. “We started playing really good all-around baseball. Our starting pitch [has been good], the bullpen was amazing and the guys started banging. We played a good defense. I mean, it’s just been a total team thing, you know? Just playing good, solid baseball, you know, day in and day out.
That’s the mentality the Braves adopted on Monday, when again much of the production came from the bottom half of their deep roster. Travis d’Arnaud, Marcell Ozuna, Duvall, Swanson and Harris II all went deep, with Ozuna and Duvall back to back against Erasmo Ramírez in the third. Duvall’s home run was his third in four at-bats since Sunday, while d’Arnaud punctuated his return to the lineup after giving up two games to William Contreras behind the plate. Swanson smashed his two-run shot from 423 feet in the sixth and Harris’ first career homer put the game on ice in the eighth.
“Everyone feels good, feels free,” said Harris II, who received a rare road curtain call from the large contingent of Braves fans who waited out the 93-minute rain delay to attend the home run. scoring best hope. “We go out there having fun, playing every day and winning.”
The explosion was characteristic of this relentless Braves team. They had 29 MLB-leading homers in the bottom third of their roster, plus what turns into a Swanson career year as they climbed the NL East standings. The steps he has taken this platform season are even more vital knowing that Atlanta could be without Albies for at least several weeks, after the All-Star second baseman broke his foot. left on a fifth swing.
Swanson is having his best all-around season, hitting .292 with eight homers and an .816 OPS, after becoming a power threat in 2021. He leads NL shortstops in Wins Above Replacement (bWAR) and is a free agent at the end of the season.
“It’s just continued growth, trust and keeping things simple,” Swanson said. “Just keep focusing on being on time. You can’t hit if you’re not on time. So keep it simple and prepare every day to be successful.
Said Snitker: “I don’t think a situation is too big for him. He’s probably the guy I want to ride whenever there’s a big spot. I love when he’s up there because he has a way of slowing things down, and you know it never gets too big for him.