Thursday, July 6, 2017

Atlanta Braves look to gain ground on Washington Nationals in standings

Oakland's Fourth of July uniforms.
The Atlanta Braves finished this past week just one game under .500 and are becoming one of the hottest teams in the Major Leagues headed into the All-Star break.

As of Monday, the Braves were 40-41 overall thanks to the four big wins they picked up during the previous week in a long California road trip through San Diego and Oakland. The Braves went 1-2 against the Padres, which was somewhat disappointing when you consider that the Padres are next to last in the National League West standings.

Atlanta picked up their third shutout of the season when they beat the Padres, 3-0, on Tuesday of last week at Petco Park. San Diego bounced back to win the last two games of the series, 7-4 and 6-0, on Wednesday of last week and last Thursday, respectively. San Diego has played so poorly this year that Braves fans couldn’t help but feel that they’d missed an opportunity to gain ground against the Padres. (Last Thursday’s loss to San Diego was the sixth time this season that the Braves have suffered a shutout.)

Atlanta bounced back by sweeping the Oakland Athletics in a three-game series played Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Oakland Coliseum. Atlanta won, 5-3, on Friday and recorded 4-3 wins on Saturday and Sunday. Sunday’s game was especially entertaining to watch as it went all the way into the 12th inning before the Braves could seal the deal.

My son and I watched most of Sunday’s game and got into a discussion over each team’s uniforms, which featured a combination of red, white and blue and stars and stripes to mark the approaching Independence Day holiday. Atlanta’s uniform colors didn’t look much different than they normally do, but Oakland’s red-schemed holiday uniforms looked very different than their traditional green and yellow uniforms.

I’m not a slave to fashion, but I couldn’t help but notice that Oakland still used their regular green and yellow batting helmets, which really clashed with their special holiday uniforms. I suspect that Oakland didn’t tamper with the batting helmets because they’re expensive and each players’ is probably tailor-made to their liking. Oakland’s equipment managers were probably thankful too because that was one less thing they had to fool with during the holiday festivities.

Another unusual aspect about Sunday’s game that we couldn’t help but notice was that one lucky Oakland fan happened to catch a total of three foul balls during the game. It’s rare to be in the right place at the right time to catch even one foul ball during a Major League game, much less two or three. When the fan caught the third foul ball even the Braves announcers made note of it, saying they’d never seen a fan catch three foul balls in one game.

Atlanta was scheduled to host a two-game series against the Houston Astros on Tuesday and Wednesday before going on the road for a four-game series against the NL East leading Washington Nationals. The Astros are currently leading the AL West, so the Braves will have their hands full against Houston, who are predicted by many to win the World Series this year.

Atlanta also stands to cut into Washington’s lead in the standings if they can carry that series this week in D.C. I’m hoping for a sweep, but most Braves fans will be happy to take three out of four if they can get it.

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