Atlanta's 'train rolling' after encouraging trip

Braves change manager, double HR total and win 2nd series on 10-game road swing

May 22nd, 2016
The Braves secured their second series win of the season on Saturday vs. the Phillies. (AP)

PHILADELPHIA -- Though they ended a 10-game road trip a 5-0 loss to the Phillies on Sunday afternoon, the Braves return to Atlanta with a different look and feel than they had when they were last home nearly two weeks ago.

Over the course of this trip that included stops in Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, the Braves obtained a new manager, claimed their first series win in more than a month and doubled their season home run total. Though they won just four of the 10 games played, the Braves seemed to be energized by what transpired over the past week.

"I've seen a lot of good things during my first week here that we can build on," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "We're getting the train rolling a little bit. We've got to just keep taking it a day at a time and not look too far ahead."

After dropping two of three in Kansas City, the Braves decided it was time to make their first in-season managerial change since 1990. Nobody directly blamed Fredi Gonzalez for the team's record (9-28 at the time of his firing), but team executives determined that the clubhouse mood was being adversely affected by the frustration that Gonzalez was displaying while knowing his job in jeopardy.

Snitker's arrival as the team's interim manager on Tuesday enabled the Braves to enter an environment free of the distractions created by Gonzalez's unstable future. Talk about a managerial change began as Atlanta lost each of this season's first nine games.

"I wouldn't be able to put my finger on it, but I do think there is a different feel," Braves utility man Kelly Johnson said. "To be honest, making the change and having that done was something that was talked about almost from the beginning. So now, that's just another distraction that is gone."

Though the Braves did not secure a winning trip, they won this weekend's series in Philadelphia and recorded more wins during this three-city journey than they have totaled at Turner Field, where they have lost 17 of their first 19 games.

While Gonzalez's exit might have freed the team from some distractions, the mindset began changing on Monday, when the players took it upon themselves to take a different approach during batting practice by essentially turning the practice into a modified Home Run Derby.

During the five games that followed the adoption of this new approach, the Braves hit nine home runs, equaling what their homer total through their previous 36 games.

"I think the mindset changed when we were trying to let loose in batting practice, going up there free and easy and just trying to have a little more fun at the plate," Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said. "We're not going up there pressing. We're just going up their swinging. When you swing big sometimes, if something good happens, then something good happens. But I like the way we've been playing."