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Phils? Mets? Nobody can stop Braves right now

High-powered offense reminiscent of record-setting 2003 Atlanta club
@mlbbowman
June 18, 2019

ATLANTA -- A little less than halfway through this season, the powerful Braves have created reason to be compared to their 2003 club, which possessed the most potent lineup in franchise history. “They had some guys that could bang and with that pitching staff, they made it tough for the

ATLANTA -- A little less than halfway through this season, the powerful Braves have created reason to be compared to their 2003 club, which possessed the most potent lineup in franchise history.

“They had some guys that could bang and with that pitching staff, they made it tough for the opposing team,” Braves right fielder Nick Markakis said. “It’s very similar to what we’ve got going on right now. We’re in a good place right now and we’ve just got to stay in that lane.”

Box score

The Autobahn might be the only highway that is currently safe for the high-octane Braves, who hit three more home runs and tallied yet another double-digit run total while claiming a 12-3 win over the Mets Monday night at SunTrust Park.

By now, the baseball world is well aware of the transformation the Braves have made while going 25-10 since Ronald Acuña Jr. was moved back to the top of the lineup. But what they have done this month, or more specifically while totaling 90 runs over their past 11 games, has been otherworldly impressive.

The Braves have recorded nine double-digit run totals, including five within this month’s first 16 games and seven within the 31 games they have played since Austin Riley made his May 15 Major League debut. To put this in perspective, the Nationals are the only other National League East team to record a double-digit run total at least eight times this year. The Phillies (6) and Mets (3) have combined to do so nine times.

So accounting for this extended offensive onslaught, it’s not surprising to see the Braves now own a three-game lead atop the NL East standings. They stand with the Dodgers and Astros as the only MLB teams with a winning percentage above .700 dating back to May 10 and their .813 winning percentage (13-3) in June is easily the game’s best.

“We’re so talented from top to bottom and we show up every night,” catcher Brian McCann said. “We show up every night. We don’t give an at-bat away. This is a special team.”

Having spent their teenage years in Atlanta, McCann and Markakis are both well aware of the 2003 club that featured Gary Sheffield, Javy Lopez, Andruw Jones and Chipper Jones. Now they’re a part of a team that could break some of the franchise records that club set 16 years ago.

With Acuna, McCann and Ozzie Albies all going deep in this series opener against the Mets, the Braves are now on pace to hit 246 homers and score 883 runs. The 2003 team holds the franchise’s Live Ball Era records with 235 home runs and 907 runs.

“It’s fun when everybody is going well at the same time,” Markakis said. “That’s ultimately what you strive for. We’re getting pitching, offense and defense right now. No matter who we face, that makes it tough for them.”

A 15-minute rain delay in the middle of the sixth combined with a long, three-run fifth led Braves manager Brian Snitker to lift Mike Soroka after he totaled 68 pitches while allowing three runs over six innings. The early exit could prove beneficial to the rookie down the road, and it proved inconsequential when Snitker’s offense combined for seven runs during its final two at-bats.

Acuna got the Braves rolling when he hit his 11th leadoff homer in what was just his 112th career game at the top of the lineup. The 21-year-old phenom capped a three-hit game with an RBI single in the four-run seventh. He’s hit .485 (16-for-33) over the past seven games and he’s produced a .944 OPS since moving back to the leadoff spot.

“When you’re outside of the team and you watch him play, he’s next level,” McCann said. “When you get here and see him go about his business, you see he’s a superstar.”

While Acuna is experiencing the early stages of his career, McCann is loving the opportunity to spend the latter portion of his career with the hometown organization he was a part of from 2005-13. The veteran catcher highlighted his second straight three-hit game by teaming with Ozzie Albies to hit back-to-back homers in the eighth.

To understand the depth of the Braves’ lineup, one only has to look at the fact that McCann and Albies fill the seventh and eighth spots when in the lineup together.

McCann has notched four of his seven homers while batting .500 in 16 at-bats dating back to June 11. The switch-hitting Albies has halted his struggles against right-handed pitchers, compiling a 1.000 OPS over his past 96 plate appearances against them and 1.249 OPS against them within the past 11 games.

With Acuna surging, Josh Donaldson turning a corner and Albies now showing why he was an All-Star last year, the Braves are proving they can rely on more than Freddie Freeman’s MVP-caliber talents on a nightly basis.

“You don’t see [everyone going well] at the same time very much,” Snitker said. “You ride it while you can because you know in this game ... We’ll just go back out and try to do it again tomorrow.”

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