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Braves display resiliency in solid first half

MLB.com @mlbbowman

ATLANTA -- Despite spending seven weeks without Freddie Freeman and bidding adieu to their most expensive free-agent acquisition -- Bartolo Colon -- after he essentially spent just two months in the rotation, the Braves should feel good about entering the All-Star break with the National League's seventh-best record.

There is certainly a sense of optimistic anticipation as the Braves enter the second half with reason to believe they could still make things interesting in the NL Wild Card race. They went 24-20 while Freeman was sidelined with a fractured left wrist and entered the break having won 13 of their past 21 games.

ATLANTA -- Despite spending seven weeks without Freddie Freeman and bidding adieu to their most expensive free-agent acquisition -- Bartolo Colon -- after he essentially spent just two months in the rotation, the Braves should feel good about entering the All-Star break with the National League's seventh-best record.

There is certainly a sense of optimistic anticipation as the Braves enter the second half with reason to believe they could still make things interesting in the NL Wild Card race. They went 24-20 while Freeman was sidelined with a fractured left wrist and entered the break having won 13 of their past 21 games.

Here is a quick look back at how the Braves have proven to be one of this year's most surprising teams, while also enhancing hope as they conclude what is just the third season of their rebuilding process.

:: 2017 Midterm Report: Complete coverage ::

What went right
Freeman was arguably the NL's top MVP candidate before he was injured, and the impressive power numbers he produced were nearly matched by Matt Adams, who was acquired from the Cardinals as an emergency replacement in May. To keep Adams in the lineup, Freeman then made the selfless decision to move to third base when he returned from the disabled list on July 4, three weeks earlier than expected. … Ender Inciarte earned his first All-Star selection after once again providing Gold Glove-caliber defense and serving as a dependable catalyst at the top of a lineup that benefited from the production Matt Kemp provided before beginning to slump in June. … Mike Foltynewicz legitimized his bid to establish himself as a legit frontline starter and Tyler Flowers served as an invaluable asset as he extended his reign as the game's top pitch-framer and also became a legit offensive threat.

What went wrong
Colon became a $12.5 million bust as he produced an 8.14 ERA over the 13 starts completed before he was released. … Julio Teheran produced a 2.53 ERA in nine road starts and a 7.58 ERA in nine starts at SunTrust Park, the sparkling new stadium, which didn't serve as a cozy new home to many of Atlanta's pitchers through the first two months. … Thoughts of having a much-improved bullpen evaporated as closer Jim Johnson blew seven of 26 save opportunities. … Dansby Swanson showed some offensive promise after June arrived, but he made some costly errors as he progressed through what is essentially just his fourth full season since he graduated from high school.

What we learned
Though Colon faltered, the offseason additions of R.A. Dickey and Jaime Garcia gave the Braves the necessary veteran stability needed in the rotation. Their presence allowed Sean Newcomb to gain two more months of development before coming to the Majors in June and making an immediate positive impact.

It might be a year early to optimistically hope for a postseason berth, but the Braves had the best interest of their fans and players in mind when they quickly acquired Adams after Freeman's injury and reacted to Sean Rodriguez' February shoulder surgery by acquiring second baseman Brandon Phillips, who has proven he can still provide consistency near the top of the lineup.

First half top player (non-pitcher)
Freeman might have been the game's top player for this season's first six weeks, and he has picked up right where he left off since returning to action. But the Braves are where they are because of what they did while their MVP candidate was sidelined. Thus, the nod goes to Inciarte, who aided the pitching staff with his glove and compiled a .385 on-base percentage and a 111 Weighted Runs Created Plus mark while Freeman was on the DL.

First half top pitcher
Though Dickey entered the break on a roll, Foltynewicz served as the rotation's most consistent and dominant piece throughout the first half. The talented right-hander carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning of a June 30 start in Oakland and allowed two earned runs or fewer in 12 of his 16 starts. The strides he's made both physically and mentally have given the Braves a base as they attempt to project how their rotation might look next year and beyond .

First half top rookie
Swanson narrowly maintained his rookie status last year and Newcomb showed signs of his potential throughout much of June. But the rookie who made the greatest impact was Johan Camargo, who has drawn comparisons to a young Martin Prado. Camargo provided the indication he may soon become an everyday player, solidifying the third-base position after Adonis Garcia was injured in June. He will enter the second half with a chance to continue being a regular at one of the infield positions over the remainder of the season.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves