DENVER -- It's too early to accurately project whether the success will extend over 162 games, but the earliest portion of the season has given the Braves reason to believe they are capable of becoming one of this year's biggest surprises."Guys can start believing in themselves," Braves manager Brian Snitker
DENVER -- It's too early to accurately project whether the success will extend over 162 games, but the earliest portion of the season has given the Braves reason to believe they are capable of becoming one of this year's biggest surprises.
"Guys can start believing in themselves," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "We didn't know coming in what to expect. It's a short sample right now. But guys should feel good about the way they're playing because they're playing the game and having fun doing it."
Coming off series wins against the Nationals and Phillies, the Braves entered a frigid Coors Field on Friday afternoon and remained hot during an 8-3 win. Dansby Swanson fueled the team's latest offensive eruption with his latest three-hit game, and Brandon McCarthy looked comfortable as he pitched in conditions similar to those he experienced while growing up 30 minutes south in Colorado Springs.
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"Wins in April are just as important as wins in September," McCarthy said. "It's showing that we're not rolling over. We've faced good pitching. We've been behind in games late. We've blown teams out. Winning in different ways is nice. It's better than going 1-10 and feeling like, 'Oh [no], this is a rebuilding year.'"
The Braves are at least a week away from adding top prospect Ronald Acuna Jr. to the lineup and at least a few weeks away from regaining the services of starting catcher Tyler Flowers, who strained his left oblique during the second inning of the season. But this resilient bunch is 5-2 and the offense has totaled more runs (56) through the first seven games of a season than any of the franchise's other squads of the modern era, per STATS.
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"I think this start has shown what we think of ourselves as a team and organization to begin with," Swanson said. "To start out like this, it does propel your confidence. But it's also a testament of what we were like coming out of spring. I think we all have belief in one another, and I think we truly have faith in what each other is capable of. I think you see a lot of camaraderie and chemistry that allows that to happen."
Swanson finished a home run shy of the cycle as he notched his fourth multi-hit game of the season. The revitalized shortstop drilled a two-run triple during a four-run first inning and added an RBI double during a three-run fifth that chased Rockies starter German Marquez. The Braves have scored at least three first-inning runs in each of their past three games.
McCarthy capped the fifth-inning eruption with a two-run double -- his only extra-base hit through 121 career at-bats. But the right-hander's most valuable contributions came on the mound, as he became the first Braves pitcher to complete at least six innings this season. He surrendered a pair of solo home runs during the third inning, but he ended his efficient 88-pitch outing having allowed just three runs.
The veteran pitcher gave a lot of credit to catcher Kurt Suzuki, who was playing for the first time since his right hand was badly bruised by a Nick Pivetta pitch during a March 30 loss to the Phillies.
"Zuk changed gears really early," McCarthy said. "Every sinker I threw cut and every cutter I threw sank. He changed gears really quickly and fell back into patterns we had years ago. He was fantastic. It was easy for me to just throw what he called."
That's just the way things have gone thus far for the Braves, who have certainly shown resiliency as they have overcome some adversity and proved they are intent exceeding expectations.
"Everybody is just doing their job, and for a team as young as this, it's impressive to see," McCarthy said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Enjoying the snow: The youngest member of the Braves, Ozzie Albies, enjoyed seeing snow for the first time and then sparked the first-inning outburst with a solo homer that sailed into the right-field seats. Per Statcast™, the solo shot traveled 403 feet -- just four feet shorter than the career-long homer he hit to fuel the historic Opening Day comeback win.
"It was the first time I'd seen snow," Albies said. "I was excited. I was acting like a little kid out there. I put a barrel on the ball and watched it fly."
Quick fix: Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez tripled against a cutter in the first inning and homered against another in the fourth inning. Trevor Story added another solo homer in the fourth against a slider. But after making these mistakes, McCarthy retired seven of the final eight batters faced. He ended his outing with three consecutive strikeouts against Gonzalez, Ian Desmond and Gerardo Parra.
"I just tried to stop throwing terrible pitches," McCarthy said. "We got beat on the same pitch to CarGo, and that was annoying. But the pitch to Story was just a Coors Field slider. I'm happy for him. He was my workout partner for years, and he looked really happy when he hit it."
"Everybody has filled in everywhere. It's been a very complete up-and-down-the-roster effort, which is really important. You don't want it to be Freddie mashed us to five wins in the first week. We've all done our part. I think that lends better to this going well over the next six months." -- McCarthy
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
According to STATS, the 56 runs tallied by the Braves stands as the most by any MLB team through its first seven games since the 2003 Yankees totaled 61 runs. The last team in franchise history to surpass the mark was the 1892 Boston Beaneaters, who tallied 70 runs through their first seven games.
Braves:Anibal Sanchez will make his first start of the season when the Braves and Rockies resume their series Saturday night at 8:10 p.m. ET at Coors Field. Sanchez tossed three scoreless innings of relief as he made his Atlanta debut during Monday's game against the Nationals.
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Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.