With their completion of a sweep of the Washington Nationals (my pick to win the World Series) this weekend, the Atlanta Braves improved to 11-1 on the season, their only loss a 2-0 decision at the hands of Cliff Lee and the Phillies.
Off to its best start since the 1994 season, Atlanta owns a rotation in which four starters own a 2.50 ERA or lower. Paul Maholm, the winning starter on Sunday, is 3-0 and hasn’t allowed a run in 20 1/3 innings pitched. He is the first Braves pitcher to open a season with three straight scoreless starts. Perhaps a more startling stat is the fact that he has allowed just one hit with his off-speed pitches. Closer Craig Kimbrel has six saves in six opportunities and hasn’t allowed a run either.
Although B.J. Upton has struggled in his first few games as a Brave, his brother, Justin, leads the league in homeruns, with seven in 12 games. Evan Gattis is making Braves fans forget about the fact that their all-star catcher, Brian McCann, is hurt after he underwent shoulder surgery in October. The catcher who thought he was done with baseball in high school is hitting .324 with four bombs and 10 RBIs in his first nine games as a Brave.
A pleasant addition to the explosive Braves lineup has been former Astro, Chris Johnson. The third baseman is third in the National League, sporting a .405 batting average.
Now, however, perhaps some bad news: according to the Elias Sports Bureau, of the four other teams to start the season 11-1 since 1995, only one (the 2003 San Francisco Giants) made the postseason. None of the other three (the 2002 Cleveland Indians, 2003 Kansas City Royals, and the 2009 Miami Marlins) even made the playoffs.
Other NL East news:
New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey, who took a no-hitter into the seventh inning on Saturday against the Minnesota Twins, is, along with Maholm, one of the hottest pitchers in baseball right now. He is the fourth pitcher in the liveball era to begin a season with three straight outings of at least seven innings pitched and three or fewer hits allowed. He is currently 3-0 with a 0.82 ERA with 25 K’s in 22 innings. Opposing hitters have gotten are hitting at a .088 clip against him so far this season. No one pitcher has been as visibly dominant on the mound as Harvey has been this season. With a fastball that can reach up to 98 mph with movement and filthy slider that can get up to 90 mph, Harvey has completely overpowered opposing hitters.