Five observations on the Braves’ 7-6 win over the Giants

Swanson (7) rounds third and reacts with Braves third-base coach Ron Washington after a home run in the fourth inning against the San Francisco Giants, Thursday, June 23, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Todd Kirkland)

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Swanson (7) rounds third and reacts with Braves third-base coach Ron Washington after a home run in the fourth inning against the San Francisco Giants, Thursday, June 23, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Todd Kirkland)

The Braves sealed an impressive series victory over the Giants with a 7-6 win Thursday at Truist Park.

Here are five observations on the Braves (41-30):

1. To this point in June, the Braves’ naysayers have repeated a refrain: The Braves, the critics have said, were winning only because they were playing cellar-dwelling teams.

Well, the Braves now are playing stiffer competition, and the results thus far are positive. They took three of four from the Giants, who are considered to be contenders for a postseason spot. San Francisco has a deep lineup and good starting pitching.

“That’s a really talented team,” Kyle Wright said. “I kind of figured that out today. … They have a really good offense, they do a lot of little things really well, they have some incredible starting pitching, and they’ve got some really good guys in the bullpen, too.”

“They’re a great team,” Swanson said. “They got a lot of great arms, they got a complete lineup, they got a lot of veteran presence over there. They’ve been there, done that for a long time now.”

The Braves didn’t need to prove themselves. They’re the reigning World Series champions. But every win versus a team like the Giants continues a theme: The Braves can beat anybody and, at their best, are one of baseball’s best teams.

2. After a rough first couple of weeks, Swanson looked at himself in the mirror.

“We’re starting over, baby,” he told himself. “New season. First two weeks are done and gone.”

Since then, Swanson has become someone who should be an All-Star, a player who may even be in the conversation for National League MVP at this moment.

In Thursday’s win, he homered twice. His second homer marked his third blast in four plate appearances. He collected three hits and three RBIs.

He has put the early-season struggles behind him.

“That’s the strongest mental player I think I’ve ever been around,” manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s so into the game. Every pitch. Everything. And all that kid wants to do is win.”

3. Swanson said the Braves are beginning to develop their identity.

What is it?

“I can’t give you all the secrets to the sauce now, but I feel like there’s teams with good players, and there’s teams that play good baseball,” he said. “I feel like we’re really starting to kind of find our stride in terms of playing good baseball.”

The Braves have played crisp baseball in June. They are pitching well. Their bats are hot. In the field, they’ve tightened things.

They walked off the Giants twice in this series. In their win in the finale, they jumped to an early lead. They’re able to win games in different ways.

“I feel like there’s a lot of versatility with this team,” Swanson said. “Guys have really embraced their roles, and it’s definitely led to good things.”

4. In 2015, as a member of the Braves, Alex Wood officially registered a start that went down as zero innings because the club pulled him because of a first-inning rain delay, and he never pitched again that day.

And if you don’t count that anomaly, Thursday marked the shortest start of Wood’s career, as the Braves knocked him out of the game in the second inning. He allowed six runs over one inning.

In the second inning, the Braves scored five runs to jump to a five-run lead. Michael Harris drove in a run with a single, and Travis d’Arnaud drove home two more with a single of his own. Wood hit Swanson with the bases loaded, which scored another.

5. Now, the Dodgers come to town. That brings us to one of the season’s most anticipated storylines: Freddie Freeman’s return to Atlanta.

“I think it’ll be cool,” Wright said. “I think it’s going to probably be pretty emotional for him, if I had to guess. First time back at the place he played for a long time. But I think it’ll be cool. I can’t wait to see him get his ring. He earned that, he deserved that. He was a big part of our team last year. But at the end of the day, we’re trying to beat him, too. It’ll be great to see him, but we’re going to try to go at him.”

“It’s always good to be able to see old friends,” Swanson said. “But (I’m) still looking forward to beating him.”

Stat to know

.302, .868 - Swanson now is batting .302 with an .868 OPS.

Quotable

“There’s a lot of confidence flowing. I feel like we’ve done a really good job of staying true to ourselves and helping kind of find our identity as a team. Guys show up and work every day. We’ve got a group of professionals that just want to win. We’re starting to kind of find our groove.” - Swanson on the state of the Braves

Up next

Right-hander Ian Anderson faces Dodgers left-hander Julio Urias in Friday’s series opener, which begins at 7:20 p.m.