It’s been a long time since the Braves suffered a non-competitive loss. It depends on your definition, of course, but the last time they weren’t either tied or bringing the tying run to the plate in the final inning was a 6-2 loss at home to Washington on June 11. There were 23 games between then and now…23 straight games in which the Braves either won or had a very good chance to win late. They won 20 of those. I’d say that’s pretty impressive.

Bryce Elder just didn’t have it today, allowing seven runs on six hits and four walks over 3.1 innings. He allowed four runs in the first on a two-run Jonathan Aranda double and a two-run Isaac Paredes homer, then allowed three more in the fourth on an RBI single by old friend Christian Bethancourt and a two-run homer by Yandy Diaz.

Those last three runs came after Travis d’Arnaud briefly pulled Atlanta back into the game with a solo homer in the top of the fourth for the Braves’ second run of the inning, making it 4-2. After the Rays immediately answered with three in the bottom half to make it 7-2, that was pretty much the end of that.

Obviously, though, the Braves ended the first half on an incredible run. They sit 8.5 games up on Miami for first place in the East and 11.5 games up on San Francisco for the final NL playoff spot. They’re currently 30-15 at home and 30-14 on the road. They have a whopping plus-147 run differential. Pitching has been a theoretical bug-a-boo on this team with a significant portion of the rotation on the injured list and the bullpen occasionally blowing a game in spectacular fashion over the first two-and-a-half months, but they go into the All-Star break with the best team ERA in baseball (3.63).

This team has earned the break and then some. So enjoy the break…or don’t, if that floats your boat (if you’re dreading the four days without meaningful baseball or will join JonathanF in lamenting that our best players will be playing a meaningless game all the way up in Seattle). The break will be over before you know it, and the team will be back home for a six-game stretch against the White Sox and Arizona.