The Braves are finishing the season on a strong note, just as they had hoped, and second baseman Jace Peterson is among those who believes the team’s progress and upbeat atmosphere can be carried forward, that it can set the tone next spring training and the 2017 season.
“Absolutely,” Peterson said before Thursday night’s 5-2 sweep-completing win against the Phillies, the 10th win in 11 games for the Brave and their 21st in 33 games. “Everyone’s excited about next year. Need to finish (the weekend) strong and then take the momentum into the offseason and focus on all the positives and be ready to go next year.”
After starting out 9-28 under manager Fredi Gonzalez, the Braves are 57-64 under interim manager Brian Snitker.
They were 18-46 on June 14 and on pace for a historic 116-loss season, but the Braves are 48-46 since then as they enter a season-ending interleague weekend series against Detroit that will be the final series played at Turner Field before the Braves move to a new Cobb County ballpark next year.
They have gone from majors’ worst record – by a wide margin at one point – to having a better record than three teams and being only a half-game behind two others, Cincinnati and Oakland, entering Friday.
The mood in the clubhouse is anything but that of a last-place team, which the Braves still are because of their dreadful start. This despite the fact they finished the season with winning records against three of four NL East opponents, all but the division-champion Nationals.
“No doubt,” Peterson said of the clubhouse vibe. “The second half has been fun, it’s gone quick, we’re playing good baseball and I think the best is yet to come, and I think that just from what we have here now and keeping him around and keep the camaraderie, that next year should be bright.”
The “him” he referred to was Snitker. Yes, Peterson is in the chorus of players calling for Snitker to be retained, for the “interim” label to be dropped from his title and the 60-year-old baseball lifer to get the permanent job. If there is a single person in the clubhouse who think he shouldn’t get the job, he hasn’t said so publicly or privately to a reporter.
Braves general manager John Coppolella said last week that the team would go through with its plans to interview some from outside the organization, while acknowledging that Snitker has done an exemplary job and increased his chances of getting the position. Snitker has said several times in the past couple of weeks that he hopes to get it.
Peterson said, “Gotta have him. I don’t see how … you hear they’re going to look at other people, but in my opinion it’s got to be his job. Everybody loves him, everybody plays for him, he manages the right way, he treats his players the right way. He’s a guy I want to play for and he’s one of my favorites. I’d be disappointed if he wasn’t here.”
The Braves’ offense went from worst in the majors in the first half to being among the top three in several major offensive categories in the second half as they enter their season-ending weekend series against Detroit, which figures to be a good one, with the Tigers fighting for an AL wild-card spot.
The Braves are 10-1 with a .300 batting average, 3.28 ERA and 66 runs (10 homers) in their past 11 games entering Friday. The Tigers are 7-3 with a .322 batting average, 3.98 ERA and 73 runs (17 homers) in their past 10 games.
The last series in the soon-to-become-a-football-stadium has a whole lot more meaning and excitement than it appeared it would have a few months ago, when it looked like the Braves might be trying to avoid 110 losses.
Instead, they’re two wins from bettering their wins total from last season and completing a finish no one envisioned 3 ½ months ago, back when the team was 18-46.
The Braves have beaten the Phillies seven straight times, including two come-from-behind wins in the just-completed series. They came back from an early 6-0 deficit to win 7-6 in Tuesday’s series opener, and back from a 1-0 deficit to win 5-2 on Thursday, getting a tying homer from rookie Dansby Swanson in the sixth inning and opening things up with a four-run eighth.
“It’s like, the umpire says play ball and our guys are expecting to win,” Snitker said of the team’s collective mindset. “They just keep grinding away, putting up good at-bats, and (defensive) plays like Jace made and like Dansby made the other day. They’re laying out and keeping runs from scoring, and giving us a chance to come back in those games.”
Going pretty well? That’s quite an understatement. In his past 94 games going back to June 13, Freeman has hit .347 with 33 doubles, five triples, 24 homers, 70 RBIs, a .446 OBP and .673 slugging percentage. The Braves were 47-47 in those games.
• Here’s one from Mark Lanegan off his Scraps at Midnight album.
Usually I fall, tell myself
It doesn’t matter anyway
That this is just another day
I don’t speak the truth too much
Hear the roars and the hush
And the cold chill of time
And I’m happy murderin’ my mindOh I remember your voice
Turnin’ around and around and around in my head
Now it’s just like you said
Everything inside is deadFrom the pillar to the post
I kill what I can miss the most
Of the blame when you get in touch
Another town another torch
Thought I saw you in a dream
Fill the hours in between
When I call myself alone
Then I disappear belowI remember your face
But it’s been a long been a long been a long long day
What I did along the way
Well I wouldn’t care to say