The Atlanta Braves won for the 11th straight time on Sunday, their longest streak in nine years, thanks to a 5-3 victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Adam Duvall hit two home runs and drove in three runs for the reigning World Series champions, and right-hander Kyle Wright was more effective than Pittsburgh's Carlos Quintana, striking out seven in six innings.
It took the Braves several months and a lot of trades (including one for Duvall) to get into proper gear in 2021. This year, they started slow, going 10-12 in April and entering June four games below .500 at 23-27. This month, they have yet to lose and now have the fifth-best record in the National League at 34-27.
Ronald Acuña is playing out of his mind, and catcher William Contreras, rookie slugger Michael Harris II and Matt Olson have been strong additions to the everyday lineup. Dansby Swanson and Austin Riley are swinging like they did in October. The bullpen has been effective, while not spectacular, and Wright and Max Fried have been Atlanta’s most consistent starting pitchers.
Once the offense gets a little closer to being whole — and if starters Ian Anderson and Charlie Morton find another gear — the Braves are going to mount another challenge in the NL East. The New York Mets still control the division, and the Philadelphia Phillies are lurking under new field management. However, Atlanta finally has built up some momentum.
Now, the Braves are not exactly feasting on top-tier talent. They have played the Pirates, Oakland A’s, Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during their winning streak, teams that are much more likely to be racing toward the 2023 draft lottery than the 2022 postseason. But in Atlanta’s defense, it’s just beating who’s in the opposing dugout.
The schedule doesn't get harder this week. The Braves visit the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs before coming home to face much-tougher tests — showdowns against the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers.
MLB Power Rankings
Rankings are determined by staff vote
Records and statistics are through June 12
1. New York Yankees (44-16, Last week: 1): Instead of using a full lineup, a computer instead will calculate runs scored based on the combined length of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge home runs.
2. New York Mets (40-22, LW: 3): Fans won't ever be comfortable, but even among signs of regression and surges from their division rivals, the Mets have a comfortable-ish lead in the NL East at 5 1/2 games over Atlanta.
3. San Diego Padres (37-24, LW: 6): Robinson Canó is back — on a minor-league deal.
4t. Los Angeles Dodgers (37-23, LW: 2): Mookie Betts is hotter than he has been in a long time, and Max Muncy is back in the lineup. However, Walker Buehler is out for months and Justin Turner looks cooked.
4t. Houston Astros (37-23, LW: 4): Other than Yordan Álvarez, José Altuve and Kyle Tucker, the offense has been average at best.
6. Atlanta Braves (34-27, LW: 11): Ronald Acuña knows that LeBron James knows who he is, and it pleases him.
7. Toronto Blue Jays (35-24, LW: 10): They hold a comfy AL wild-card lead with the Orioles and Yankees coming to Rogers Centre this week.
8. Tampa Bay Rays (35-25, LW: 8): Right-hander Shane Baz has returned to the mound, and the returns likely will be better as he goes.
9. San Francisco Giants (33-26, LW: 12): Lefty Carlos Rodón has caught fire in June — including six shutout innings Sunday against the Dodgers — after a rough May.
10. Minnesota Twins (35-27, LW: 9): This week’s road trip against sub-.500 teams (Seattle and Arizona) seems like a giant trap.
11. Boston Red Sox (32-29, LW: 13): A hip injury to right-hander Nathan Eovaldi has put his next start in doubt.
12. St. Louis Cardinals (34-27, LW: 5): Albert Pujols is not hitting great, but his .214/.319/.378 slash line is still about 4% above average when compared to the rest of the league.
13. Philadelphia Phillies (30-30, LW: 15): They're definitely getting a "new manager" push with Rob Thomson replacing Joe Girardi, but the key will be sustaining it.
14. Cleveland Guardians (29-27, LW: 14): They're right on the Twins' tail, trailing the AL Central leaders by just three games.
15. Milwaukee Brewers (34-28, LW: 7): Brandon Woodruff is losing the feeling in his extremities, which sounds terrifying and certainly is troublesome for a major-league pitcher.
16. Los Angeles Angels (29-33, LW: 17): First, they tried the All-Nickelback walk-up music day. Now, they will see if Phil Nevin can cut it long-term as their new manager after Joe Maddon was given the ol' adios.
17. Miami Marlins (27-31, LW: 21): If they could get their injuries in order (Jesus Luzardo, Joey Wendle, Garrett Cooper and Brian Anderson are on the IL) and if Avisail Garcia could get his slugging percentage over .400 (heck, even .300), Miami would contend for the NL wild card (maybe).
18. Texas Rangers (28-31, LW: 16): Bouncing back from a horrendous six-week start, Marcus Semien is batting .326/.370/.698 in June.
19. Seattle Mariners (27-33, LW: 20): Despite striking out a ton, Eugenio Suárez is making it work, batting .235/.331/.452 with 11 home runs for his best output in three years.
20. Chicago White Sox (27-31, LW: 19): Yasmani Grandal going down with a tight hamstring won’t help him wake up his bat.
21. Arizona Diamondbacks (29-33, LW: 18): After being shut out three times on their road trip, the D-backs broke through for some early runs in a 13-1 blowout against Philly on Sunday.
22. Colorado Rockies (27-34, LW: 26): C.J. Cron will make a good All-Star (knock on wood), but almost nobody else is hitting at league-average level. The pitching is just OK, too. The Rockies are not the worst team in the league, but they're also far away from being a contender.
23. Baltimore Orioles (26-35, LW: 25): Rookie catcher Adley Rutschman showed the first signs of catching on to MLB pitching on Saturday with three hits and four hard-hit balls in a 6-4 win in Kansas City.
24. Detroit Tigers (24-35, LW: 24): They weren't expected to have a powerful offense, but their best hitters are Harold Castro (.282/.297/.452, four home runs) and 39-year-old Miguel Cabrera (.286/.327/.368, three homers). Left-hander Tarik Skubal has been terrific, rookie righty Alex Faedo has gotten off to a good start, and there’s been some solid relief pitching. Otherwise, it’s been an unmitigated disaster.
25. Pittsburgh Pirates (24-34, LW: 23): Top prospect Oneil Cruz came into Sunday batting .308/.406/.615 in June at Triple-A Indianapolis.
26. Chicago Cubs (23-36, LW: 22): Slugger Seiya Suzuki can't get back on the field because the swelling in his left ring finger refuses to subside. He hasn't played since May 26.
27. Washington Nationals (23-39, LW: 27): Juan Soto, Nelson Cruz and Josh Bell went back-to-back-to-back on Saturday, finally showing what general manager Mike Rizzo had in mind by bringing them together in the same lineup.
28. Cincinnati Reds (21-39, LW: 29): Joey Votto is once again going blotto against the rest of the league, hitting .306/.419/.667 with 15 extra-base hits, including five home runs, since May 20 going into Sunday.
29. Oakland Athletics (21-41, LW: 28): Former A's slugger Matt Chapman is betting on the team's next stadium being in Las Vegas, not Oakland. "I hope that doesn't get me in trouble with A's fans because I know Oakland needs a new ballpark,” he said. “But if I had a million dollars to bet, it would be on Las Vegas.”
30. Kansas City Royals (20-39, LW: 30): Zack Greinke started a rehab assignment with Triple-A Omaha on Sunday.