3 takeaways from the Braves dominant series performance in Houston

The first Braves sweep of the 2024 season comes against a struggling Houston Astros squad and proves why Atlanta is the best-run franchise in baseball.

Atlanta Braves v Houston Astros
Atlanta Braves v Houston Astros / Logan Riely/GettyImages
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Things looked bleak headed into this series with the Astros. The Braves had just gone 3-3 against two division rivals, including a series loss to the New York Mets, and now they had to travel into Houston to face an albeit struggling Astros team that still has talent littering the roster.

And that was just the bare minimum of the bad news. The Braves had also found out about a season-ending injury to preseason Cy Young betting favorite Spencer Strider, and in the first game of the series, lost Ozzie Albies to a fractured toe.

So what they go and do? They did what all great teams do, they won in the face of adversity. Here are my three takeaways from the series to start off the week for the Braves.

Atlanta Braves prove they are more than just an All-Star-studded lineup

When a franchise in any sport wins as much as the Braves have in the past six years, it's not an accident. The kind of roster building it takes to sustain that type of success isn't a coincidence and for the Braves, they just proved why they are still the best team in baseball.

It's not because of Ronald Acuna Jr., Matt Olson, or Austin Riley. Sure they help quite a bit, but what puts the Braves over the top is their depth.

We can't overlook Orlando Arcia, who is one of the Braves' best bats in the lineup at the moment. He's getting clutch hits when the team needs them most, including during Wednesday's come from behind win.

Alex Anthopoulos isn't adding Luis Guillorme or David Fletcher in the offseason because he's bored. He's adding them because he knows the inevitable will happen. Injuries.

And they've happened in droves this season already. Two starters from the opening day lineup are currently on the IL (Ozzie Albies and Sean Murphy) and yet the Braves are 12-5 with the best record in the MLB.

That's because the depth of their starting lineup knows no bounds. When you can just move Michael Harris II to the two spot in the lineup and shuffle Luis Guillorme into the bottom of the lineup, you aren't losing much.

Guillorme hit .273 in his last fully healthy season with the Mets in 2022 and yes, there will be a major drop off in power by adding him for Ozzie but the Braves aren't really in need of more power. They just need players who can get on base in front of their power guys at the top of the order and occasionally come up with a big hit. Guillorme proved that he could do that in his first start with the Braves, driving in two runs on a ball that grazed the foul line chalk to give the Braves insurance in the ninth of game two.

When Guillorme needs a rest Fletcher will come in and do a similar job, though his numbers fell off dramatically since a shortened 2020 season that saw him finish 17th in NL MVP voting. Both will also provide plus gloves, which is always a key for AA when looking for depth.

And quickly on the pitching side, Reynaldo Lopez has looked much better than a fifth starter, which is needed now that he's the team's fourth starter with Strider done for the year. His stuff on Tuesday was nasty and it bodes well for the pitching depth for the Braves. If he had flopped to start the season, the pitching staff would look rough right now. Shout out to Darius Vines, who has probably earned himself a second start with a fantastic outing in the series opener.

This series just proved that the Braves will be just fine, even with a few banged-up guys. Please no more injuries though baseball Gods? Thanks.

Ronald Acuna Jr.'s bat is heating up

One of my biggest fears heading into 2024 came true just a few series' into 2024 and it was that Ronald Acuna Jr. would fail to live up to the impossible standards he set last year.

I'll admit, for Ronnie's standards in any season of his big league career, the start to this season could probably be considered a slump. But anyone that's watched this guy play baseball over the last six years knows what was happening heading into this series, wasn't going to last for long.

First, he got that monkey off his back with his first home run of the season, a tank to center field in the series finale on Wednesday, putting the Braves up 2-1 in the fifth inning. But he also went 5-for-11 with that solo bomb, a double, and two runs scored. He also very well could have had a home run in each of the first two games as well, with foul balls with home run distance pulled just foul in each of those games.

He didn't look the most comfortable at the plate to start the season, but this series brings him to a .294/.400/.397 slash line and a .797 OPS.

Obviously, we want that OPS and slugging percentage up more and I have a hard time believing it won't go up, but even if we have to settle for a guy who gets on base 40% of the time and can lead the league in stolen bases, the Braves will still win a lot of games that way.

Marcell Ozuna is second in the way-too-early NL MVP race

I know Braves fans are ready to crown the guy that at this time last season, they were begging AA to DFA, as the next NL MVP.

And as badly as I want to crown him that too, it's hard to deny what Mookie Betts is doing over in Los Angeles. Here are their slash lines side to side:

Betts: .369/.470/.667, 1.137 OPS
Ozuna: .352/.403/.732, 1.135 OPS

In case anyone was wondering that's a 1.137 OPS for Betts and a 1.135 OPS for Ozuna which is about as close as you can get.

But enough of the way-to-early MVP talk, this is meant to be a praise Marcell Ozuna moment and just comparing Ozuna to Betts is doing that, because no one in their right mind was doing that before the season started.

Ozuna has eight homers on the season and is tied for the MLB lead with Mike Trout. Marcell has the most homers in the NL, however. Ozuna does lead all of baseball in the RBI category with 23 of them. His .732 slugging percentage is also second-best in Major League Baseball.

Oh, and he's got a 16-game hit streak going which he extended on Wednesday with an absolute nuke to left field that made Yordan Alvarez do something I only thought happened in MLB The Show, he didn't even take his hands off his knees as the ball flew into the left field bleachers. Literally, no one in the Astros outfield moved a muscle.

Time will tell if he can keep this up. But if anyone had Ozuna vs. Betts as the early season NL MVP race, stop talking to them immediately because you can't trust a word that comes out of their mouth.

However, with some fans wondering what form of Marcell Ozuna they would get in 2024, they've been reassured early on with the best form of the big bear. He is putting up one of the best performances we've seen from an Atlanta Brave to start the season.

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