Braves win 11th straight behind Duvall's 2-HR day

June 12th, 2022

ATLANTA -- When the Braves reacquired  ahead of last year’s Trade Deadline, the common feeling was the team shouldn’t have allowed the outfielder to leave in the first place. Duvall has always been a productive power hitter and has been beloved by teammates, coaches, executives and fans.

Recognizing Duvall’s great fit with Atlanta, it seems fitting that his rejuvenation has coincided with the Braves suddenly coming to life. The veteran outfielder tallied his first multihomer game of the season and the reigning World Series champions extended their winning streak to 11 games with a 5-3 victory over the Pirates on Sunday afternoon at Truist Park.

“This is the kind of stuff [Duvall] can do when he is hot,” said Braves starting pitcher Kyle Wright. “He brings a lot to this team. He was obviously big with the bat today, but he plays good outfield, too. Anything he gets, he deserves. He’s an easy guy to root for.”

The Braves’ longest winning streak since 2013 began after they had suffered two ugly losses to the D-backs and fell to 23-27 -- 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets in the National League East. If the Mets were to lose to the Angels on Sunday night, Atlanta would be just 4 1/2 games back, its smallest division deficit since April 23.

Plenty has gone right for the Braves during this stretch.  has been playing right field on a daily basis, William Contreras has been one of the game’s top sluggers and top prospect Michael Harris II has spent the earliest weeks of his career making an impact on the lineup and the field. Harris’ ability to play center every day has also helped Duvall, who has gone 9-for-27 with two doubles, a triple and four homers over his past seven games.

Duvall was hitting .186 with two homers and a .517 OPS on this season before this seven-game stretch. That came after the 38-homer season he tallied with Miami and Atlanta last year. After being acquired by the Braves on July 30, he hit 16 homers and produced an .800 OPS in 55 games.

“You get a big, strong guy like that going, it can really help an offense and a team,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

Snitker spent the offseason worrying about how playing center field on a daily basis might adversely affect Duvall’s endurance, especially when accounting for him being a diabetic. Duvall served as Atlanta’s everyday center fielder throughout September and October of last year, but regular days off during the postseason lessened the grind.

With Harris filling the center-field role and Acuña now healthy enough to have played right field in each of the past 10 games, Duvall can comfortably fill the less-taxing left-field role. This arrangement keeps Duvall stronger and significantly improves Atlanta’s outfield defense.

“I definitely have noticed I have run a lot less in left than I did in center,” Duvall said. “I think it has helped moving over there.”

While the Braves appreciate Duvall’s glove, his real value comes via the power he showed in the series finale against the Pirates. He drilled a two-run homer off José Quintana in the second inning and another in the fourth. It was his 11th career multihomer game and the first for the Braves since his three-homer games on Sept. 2 and 9, 2020.

“The way I was feeling today, I felt I very well could have [tallied another],” Duvall said. “Hopefully, there will be more chances.”

A little more than a week after the Braves seemingly hit rock bottom, there is now plenty to like about their pitching staff, which got another strong six-inning effort from Wright on Sunday, and a suddenly deep and powerful lineup.

Sunday’s batting order had Contreras hitting seventh and Duvall eighth. Contreras homered in the second inning and doubled in the fourth. The young catcher, who has earned more time behind the plate, has recorded an extra-base hit in 18 percent (16-of-89) of his at-bats.

Filling the ninth spot has been Harris, who has hit .341 with a .884 OPS while spending this month batting in front of Acuña and essentially giving the Braves two speedy leadoff hitters. This remains a formidable lineup, especially now that Duvall is showing his power again.

“We’ve got a good thing going,” Duvall said. “There’s a good clubhouse and good energy. When we don’t play how we want, we don’t panic. We just trust the process, and it all works out.”