Takeaways from the Braves’ series win over the Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves
Photo by Matthew Grimes Jr./Atlanta Braves/Getty Images

The Braves flexed their muscles on Sunday and secured a series win over the Phillies.

The Atlanta Braves finished off a series win over the Philadelphia Phillies with a 6-0 thumping on Sunday afternoon. The win pushed Atlanta back to 10 games over .500 at 49-39 and cut their deficit in the NL East down to eight games. The Braves are 4-2 and have won both series against the Phillies this season. The two teams will play seven more times, with a three-game series at Truist Park on August 20-22 and a four-game series in Philly from August 29 through September 2.

The series win was one that the Braves desperately needed, especially after losing the opener to fall ten games back. Atlanta entered Sunday with just a 12.3% chance of winning the division per FanGraphs, but this is an important stretch for Atlanta before heading into the All-Star break.

The Braves will head back out on the road now for a seven-game western trip before heading into the break. They will play four in Arizona and then three in San Diego. As things stand currently, the Braves have a three-game edge over the Padres for the first Wild Card spot. The Diamondbacks are 2.5 games behind the Cardinals for the final Wild Card spot. So, even though there is still more than two months remaining, these head-to-head games against playoff contenders are important. The Braves were just 5-4 on their homestand and have been a sub-.500 team since their 20-9 start. Finishing the first half strong and carrying some momentum into the break would be pretty big for a team that has largely struggled for the last two months.

Jarred Kelenic coming up with big hits

After putting up a .304/.356/.543 line in June, Jarred Kelenic is just 5-for-23 at the plate through the first six games in July. However, he came up with another big hit for the Braves Sunday with a three-run homer off Phillies starter Michael Mercado that gave Atlanta some cushion. When the season began, the Braves hoped to bat Kelenic at the bottom of the order and allow him space just to fit in. Injuries to Ronald Acuña Jr. and Michael Harris II, though, have thrust Kelenic into a much more important role and he has largely delivered. Since May 7, Kelenic is hitting .277/.317/.514 with all ten of his home runs.

Since moving into the leadoff spot on June 15, he’s hitting .298/.341/.560 and has reached base to start the game in eight of 21 games. Even before Sunday’s homer, Kelenic had largely become what the Braves probably wanted to see from him: a guy who does massive damage on contact, even if he has to sacrifice a bunch of plate discipline to get there.

Adam Duvall continuing to trend up

There is a small sample size caveat to this, but given the recent struggles of Adam Duvall, we will take any sign of progress. Duvall got the scoring started Sunday with a solo home run and finished a triple shy of the cycle. It was his second three-hit game in July.

We pointed out earlier during the homestand that many of Duvall’s metrics were in the right place, but that the results simply haven’t been there. Getting some course correction during this final stretch before the All-Star Break could provide a significant boost.

Ozzie Albies providing a boost

Ozzie Albies saw his nine-game hitting streak come to an end Sunday, but he put together a nice homestand. Albies had 13 hits over his last nine games, including three-straight multi-hit games before going hitless Sunday. He homered in the first two games against the Phillies, giving him a homer in four straight games against Philadelphia dating back to the season-opening series. That was the longest stretch by a Braves player since Brian McCann homered in six straight games against the Phillies in 2012. Albies’ homer on Saturday had an exit velocity of 113.7 mph which was the hardest hit ball of his career.

Both Albies and Kelenic have trended up enough to where their offensive inputs are slightly above average, which is a vast improvement over the .300ish xwOBA valley they both found themselves in earlier.

Bullpen continues to pitch well

The Braves bullpen entered Sunday’s game leading the National League with a 3.00 ERA. That was before tossing three more scoreless innings to secure the series win. Atlanta relievers allowed just one earned run over nine innings in the series. Now if only there was a way to use them more often…

Spencer Schwellenbach continues run of success

Spencer Schwellenbach gave the Braves a huge lift Saturday by allowing one run over six innings to go along with six strikeouts. That outing came after Max Fried struggled in the loss in the series opener. Schwellenbach is still carrying a 5.02 ERA for the season, but his 3.57 FIP and 3.62 xFIP are more representative of how he has pitched of late. Since 1966, he’s the 11th pitcher in franchise history to log multiple outings of at least six innings while allowing one run or fewer within their first eight career appearances. He is the first to do since Bryce Elder in 2022. Atlanta gave Schwellenbach five runs to work with in Saturday’s start, which no doubt helped. They scored 11 total runs over his first six starts combined.

Schwellenbach has already set a career high in innings pitched as a professional and it isn’t clear how the Braves plan to manage his workload after the break. AJ Smith-Shawver is working his way back from an oblique injury and Ian Anderson may be an option as well over the final couple of months of the season. Schwellenbach, though, has done a good job of shoring up the fifth spot and is showing that he could play a big role in the near future.

Though a lot of Schwellenbach’s struggles have come as a result of going particularly deep into games, he has a very varied arsenal that makes him pretty different than most of the starters the Braves have developed and/or deployed in recent history. It’ll be interesting to see whether that works in his favor or to his detriment, and how his career evolves from here — provided that he can avoid injury, which is a tall order for pretty much any pitcher.

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Title: Takeaways from the Braves’ series win over the Phillies
Author: Kris Willis

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