After smoking through the Phillies and the Mets, the Atlanta Braves are on a season-best seven-game winning streak.
It's the best of times for a flawed but timely efficient bunch that has made the most of a shaky offense, a rebuilt rotation that has overachieved and the best closer in baseball.
For the Braves, being 47-38 after a seven-game run against National League East Division foes that are a combined 23 games under .500, this seems to be a consummate debate about the water line at the middle of the glass.
Is the glass half full? It's a fair assumption considering three of the scheduled five pitchers in the rotation are on the shelf with arm injuries and the Braves are still a half-game in front of Washington in the division.
Is the glass half empty? Also a fair assumption since the Braves are in the bottom three in runs in the big leagues -- you stay classy, San Diego -- and have a run differential of a meager plus-5 for the season, meaning they have capitalized on playing in the worst division in baseball: Atlanta is 24-14 against the NL East and 23-24 against everyone else.
The feel of this bunch is that they find a way to win, which is an extreme positive. They also are not as good as their pieces and struggled to be consistent after a torrid start and an unblemished week. That's not a positive.
So at the halfway turn, is the Braves' glass half full or half empty? Hard to know. It does make a fellow thirsty though. Co-Colas for everyone.
We'll say the Braves are individually underachieving while overachieving as a team, if that makes sense. And while it's next to impossible to bottle or predict a team's ability to deliver consistently -- and these Braves are a serious dichotomy in that department considering they are 17-10 in one-run games and are second in the NL with a batting average of .267 in late/close situations (a category similar to the offensive equal to a save situation) and one of the worst teams in baseball with runners in scoring position and two outs at .184.
As I regularly do at timesfreepress.com, let's break down the Braves' run in three categories: the good, the bad and the Uggla -- a category dedicated for years to catalog the struggles of second baseman Dan Uggla, who is 356-for-1,700 with 67 homers in 464 games (that's a .209 average) with the Braves. If you remove the outlier that was Uggla's 33-game hitting streak in 2011 when he was 49-for-130 (.377) with 12 homers, Uggla's tenure in Atlanta has produced 307 hits in 1,570 at-bats (.196). Ouch-standing.
The good: Julio Teheran is a legit ace. Dude has been money all year, save two road starts. We said on "Press Row" in the last week or so that Teheran was having an All-Star year even if he likely was not going to make the All-Star team. We were 100 percent wrong. If Teheran doesn't make the NL All-Stars, then someone needs to have their head examined. He is 8-5 (meaningless stat for a pitcher) with a 2.29 ERA and a sub-1.00 WHiP. He has made 18 starts, 16 of which were designated as quality starts (six or more innings, three earned runs or fewer), and allowed more than a third of the total earned runs he's allowed all year in those two outliers (one of which was at the homerdome known as Coors Field). Dude is an ace. Offensively, at least recently, the Braves have been timely and making the most of their moments.
The bad: Other than one big swing by Chris Johnson on Wednesday, Teheran again could have suffered a tough-luck beating. Johnson's three-run, two-out double in the first inning was all the offense the Braves mustered in a 3-1 win. Still, that's picking nits in an weeklong week of wins in a variety of ways -- heck, they stole three bases Tuesday night off Dice K -- and have done a lot of this surge without Evan Gattis, who is on the DL with a bulging disk.
The Uggla: Dan Uggla did not play and remains at .163 for the season. Since April 22 -- Happy Earth Day -- Uggla has five singles in 57 at-bats and 21 Ks. Wow. You want a different ugly, how about this team's fundamentals. Needing a sacrifice, the Braves called Jordan Schafer to pinch-hit for Teheran in the seventh and failed to advance the runner. Man, this team struggles to manufacture runs.