My gosh, this team just keeps crushing it. In a Friday night matchup of the top two teams in the NL East, the Braves clobbered the Fish 16-4. Our guys had 15 hits, 6 of which were home runs. Olson hit two more, and Riley, Rosario, Murphy, and RAJ also left the yard. Olson and Riley between them had 7 hits, drove in 8, scored 7, and had 3 homers. Both of them came to bat in the 8th with a shot at the cycle.

Our guys jumped on them for 5 runs in the first, with an rbi double by Riley and two run shots by Olson and Rosario. Scoring multiple runs in the first has almost become par for the course. That was especially important tonight, though, as this was the first home start for Michael Soroka in almost 3 years. (His last start at Truist before live fans was actually all the way back in September 2019; he should have had a start at Truist in October 2019–still not sure why Folty had two starts in that series,and Soroka had one and Fried none–but as far as I can tell that’s about the only mistake AA and Snit have made in six years).

Anyway, it couldn’t hurt Michael’s confidence to pitch with that lead. And he did indeed retire the Marlins in order in the first two innings. In the third, though, he hung a few off speed pitches, which led to a double and two homers. At that point it was 5-3. But the Braves scored 2 more in the third, and they never looked back.

Other than the brief mini-episode in the third, Soroka was outstanding. He shut them out in the 4th, 5th, and 6th. His final line: 6 IP, 7 K’s, no walks (!), 5 hits, and the 3 runs. His 2-seamer and 4-seamer both had a lot of life. And although Wins are overrated, it’s pretty cool for him to get his first since 2019.

The Braves are halfway through the 2023 season. I’m no statistician, but even I have the math skills to extrapolate at this point. They are on pace to win 108 games, which would be the franchise record. Matt Olson is on pace for 56 home runs, which would be the franchise record. Ronald Acuña, Jr., is on pace for 74 stolen bases, which, as you’ve guessed, would be the franchise record. Ronald is also on pace for 40 homers. The combination of 40/70 is something no player has ever approached.

What should we expect in the second half?

The Braves’ 61 homers in June were the most in any month in National League history (according to our TV crew). The offense can’t keep up this pace (can they?), but it still is as fearsome a lineup top to bottom as any I remember. The bullpen is solid.

The biggest question for the second half is the rotation. Bryce Elder continues to silence his critics, and Spencer Strider is back after a couple of shaky starts.  Uncle Charlie is still eating valuable innings and keeping the Braves in games. But there are big questions beyond that. Shuster, Smith-Shawver, and Dodd may be reliable big league starters some day, but, like George Jones, they’re not ready yet.

It turns out the answer to the rotation question may be found in the 2016 Rome Braves. I’ve never been a fan who follows prospects closely. But when the Braves tanked in 2015-2017, and the big league club was almost unwatchable, I paid a lot more attention to the draft and the farm system. In 2015, the Braves drafted two high school pitchers in the first round, Kolby Allard and Michael Soroka. Both spent 2016 with the Class A Rome club, along with former Padres number one pick Max Fried, whom they had acquired from San Diego. By the way, the two hitting stars on the Rome team were a couple of teenagers named Ronald Acuña and Austin Riley (also drafted in 2015). The Rome Braves won the second half and the South Atlantic league title, thanks largely to the very young but dominant rotation.

Here we are 8 years later, and the rotation help the Braves need in the second half may be none other than those three young starters, Fried, Soroka, and Allard. The most important is for Max to be healthy and return to form. But wouldn’t it be nice to see him joined by Soroka and Allard? I have high hopes for Soroka. He is so smart and so talented, I expect him to get sharper and sharper as the season progresses. I can’t be as optimistic about Allard, given his lack of previous big league success, but he sure was sharp on Wednesday. Perhaps, as Ryan suggested, the Braves have helped him figure out what it takes for him to succeed at the highest level.

What a time to be a Braves fan! As Snit said after the game, they are really good. The Hammers begin the second half on Saturday afternoon at 4:10. They will try to put even more distance between themselves and the Fish and everyone else. Charlie Morton faces the phenom Eury Perez, who is half his age and has an ERA one third of Charlie’s. But Perez hasn’t faced this Braves lineup. I still like our chances.