Don’t misinterpret that headline. The Atlanta Braves won’t play .500 ball the rest of the season. They’re still a substandard big-league team. And it’s possible this flurry — if 3-3 can be so deemed — under a new manager is nothing more than what’s known on Wall Street as a dead-cat bounce. (As opposed to a real bounce, or a live cat.)
Still: When you’re 9-28 and you haven’t won a series in a calendar month, 3-3 with a series win constitutes progress, if not quite cause for utter glee. When you’re 9-28, your season is gone. (You’d have to win 19 in a row, which ain’t happening, just to reach .500.) But — apologies for quoting myself here — a managerial change can be less about the manager than about change. Sometimes a slightly different voice can yield slightly different results.
The Braves will gladly settle for being slightly better, which has happened, albeit in the smallest of sample sizes. They just won their first series in a calendar month. (Also consecutive games for the first time in a calendar month.) This isn’t to say they couldn’t have gone 3-3 to close the week with Fredi Gonzalez still managing, but that’s now unknowable. What’s known is that they went 3-3 against two plus.-500 teams with Brian Snitker making out the lineup card and giving Daniel Castro three starts at shortstop — he’d had five this season under the previous manager — and moving Nick Markakis down in the order.
Let no one believe that Castro-at-SS has become to the Braves what Alcides-Escobar-hitting-leadoff has been to the Royals: The three losses post-Fredi came with Castro starting at shortstop. And while Markakis not hitting leadoff might have had a small effect on the rest of the Braves’ lineup, he has gone 4-for-27 since the change — batting second, fourth and fifth — and has seen his batting average dip to .245. He does have three RBIs and his first home run of the season, though.
At this point, the Braves will take whatever whatever they can get however they get it. They’re still probably going to lose 100 games. They’d have to go 51-68 for that not to happen, and I doubt this team can play .432 ball from here on. But here’s what was also known: Over their final 115 games under Fredi G., the Braves were 34-81; that was .296 ball.
Super fun reading: