As tough as first half predictions can be to make, few predicted the Atlanta Braves would finish the first half 16 games over .500 and 3 1/2 games behind the division-leading Phillies.
Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward have struggled mightily; while spectacular defensively, Alex Gonzalez has been nothing short of a disappointment with a bat in his hands and Martin Prado and Chipper Jones have both seen time on the DL. Amidst all the struggles, Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann have carried the Braves through the first half.
But as many have seen, anything can happen in the game of baseball, and the Braves are opening eyes all around the MLB, even more-so after Tuesday’s All-Star Game.
With the All-Star break winding down, BravesFTW takes a look at the first half of the Braves:
The Braves began the season in Washington, taking two of three from the surprising Nationals before being handcuffed by a revamped Milwaukee pitching staff, dropping 3 of 4. The first home series of 2011 was the same home finale in 2010, the Phillies. The Braves took the opener before dropping the next two, and continued to play mediocre baseball throughout the rest of the month. They hosted the Marlins for three and dropped two before sweeping a doubleheader against the Mets to take the series.
A west coast trip provided some relief, but not until after leaving Los Angeles dropping three of four to the Dodgers. After the disappointing series in L.A., the Braves swept the defending World Series champion Giants, a little revenge for the 2010 playoff exit before taking two of three in San Diego. After winning five of six, the Braves dropped the final two games of April at home to the Cardinals, ending the month with a losing record.
After a disappointing end to the first month of the season, the Braves got things back on track quickly when May began, winning seven of eight including a four-game sweep of the Brewers and two of three against the Phillies. This was the high point of the month for the Braves, as they struggled to remain consistent over the next three weeks, dropping two of three to the Nationals before taking two of three from the Phillies for the second weekend in a row.
They swept a quick two-game set with Houston before heading out on their second west coast trip of the season. There, the Braves dropped a two-game set to the Diamondbacks before losing two of three in Anaheim. Things got a little better after sweeping a two-game set in Pittsburgh before taking two of three from the visiting Reds, but the Braves ended the month dropping two straight to the visiting Padres.
While they took the finale against the Padres, the Braves saw more disappointment, dropping two of three to the Mets before putting a six-game winning streak together, including a road sweep of Florida before taking three of four in Houston. For the second time in a month, the Braves dropped two of three to the Mets before welcoming the Rangers and Blue Jays into Turner Field.
While the Braves did not fare well dropping two of three to the Rangers, they quickly made up for it, sweeping the Blue Jays before embarking on their third and finale west coast trip of the season. And the road trip did not begin well, watching the Braves drop two of three in San Diego before ending the road trip, and the month, with a sweep of the Mariners.
With the first series in July marking the end of interleague play, the Braves took two of three against the visiting Orioles before sweeping a four-game set against the Rockies, closing out the first half at Turner Field. The Braves had three games remaining on their schedule before the break in Philadelphia, and went into the series down 2 1/2 games behind their division rivals.
But things did not go as planned, as the Braves and Phillies split the first two games before the hosts sent the Braves into the break with a 14-1 loss.
As mediocre as the season began, the Braves have picked things up and kept the heat on the Phillies in the NL East. Look for more of the same in the second half as the Braves look to capture their second consecutive postseason berth and first under manager Fredi Gonzalez