WASHINGTON — Someone forgot to tell Matt Olson he left North Port.
Olson, who apparently has not cooled off since spring training ended, launched two home runs as the Braves routed the Nationals 7-1 on Saturday at Nationals Park. The Braves are 2-0.
Here are five observations:
1. There’s no exact science to determine whether a player’s spring-training performance is an accurate precursor for the regular season. It goes on a case-by case basis.
“You never know,” manager Brian Snitker said.
Olson, however, is hitting like he’s still in the CoolToday Park batter’s box, blasting balls all over the yard. In their first two games, the Braves have displayed many encouraging developments. Olson is near, if not at, the top.
On Saturday, Olson homered off Josiah Gray in the first inning as the Braves began the game with back-to-back home runs. Then he blasted another bomb in the seventh off Thaddeus Ward.
The first homer traveled 406 feet and left the bat at 111 mph. The second flew 420 feet at 111.4 mph.
Through two games, Olson is 4-for-8 with two home runs, one double, three RBIs and a walk. And remember this: On opening day, his double was a couple of feet from being a homer.
In spring training, Olson led all of baseball with eight homers – two more than anyone else.
“Try to keep it going,” Olson said of his mindset. “Obviously had some results during the spring, so you want to continue to see those results.”
2. How good is this Braves lineup?
“Sometimes I get a little nervous before the game, and then I look at our lineup, and then I feel a lot better,” starting pitcher Spencer Strider said. “No offense to anybody else, but we’ve got a lineup I don’t want to face.”
The Braves homered four times. Three came off Gray, who last season allowed the most homers in baseball (38 over 148-2/3 innings). They began the afternoon with back-to-back blasts by Ronald Acuña Jr. and Olson. In addition to Olson and Acuña, Marcell Ozuna hit his first homer of the spring – a nice sight for the Braves.
Through two games, the Braves have scored 14 runs. As expected, they have taken care of business against a team that likely will end up as one of baseball’s worst this season.
“It’s tough navigating for teams, the top of that lineup,” Snitker said. “That’s some rugged guys right there – and then you got to face them three, four times. That’s good to see overall. I really like the way we’re swinging the bats. We come out of spring training, everybody’s kind of chipping in and having some good at-bats.”
3. One of Olson’s great qualities is this: He is consistent. Whether he is locked in or struggling, he’s the same person.
“He’s just a professional,” Snitker said. “You don’t know if he’s 0-for-10, 10-for-10. He’s like a good team – you don’t know what’s going on with him.”
Olson was asked if he always has been that way.
“I think everybody kind of goes through their ups and downs and everybody’s gonna have their blow up every once in a while,” he said. “But I think (consistency is) the best for personal and team success. We’re trying to win. At the end of the day, everybody’s gonna have their ups and downs. Frankly, nobody cares how your day went. You got to flush it.”
4. According to Acuña, Orlando Arcia called it during batting practice before Saturday’s game: The Braves, Arcia said, would go back to back for the first time this season during the game.
Two batters into the game, it happened.
Told about this, Olson wasn’t so sure Arcia actually predicted it.
“”I don’t know, he might’ve made that up,” Olson said with a smile.
5. The Braves scored two runs before Strider even toed the rubber.
Just those would’ve been enough.
“From the second he started throwing, you could tell he had his good stuff,” Olson said. “He’s always going to be a hell of a competitor out there, and when he’s got his A-stuff, it’s tough sledding for the other side.”
Over six scoreless innings, Strider struck out nine Nationals, including striking out five of the first six he faced. He allowed three hits – two were soft singles, one was a double that went off Michael Harris II’s glove before it landed. (Harris usually catches these.) Strider walked three batters and finished with 96 pitches.
Stat to know
27 - Acuña’s homer to begin the game was the 27th leadoff home run of his career.
“Ronnie (Acuña) hitting a homer from the jump, it changes the whole dynamic in the game. I’ve been on the other side of it, and it can be deflating when you come out and you know that somebody at the top of the order has power like that. Ronnie’s one of the best hitters in all of baseball.” – Olson on Acuña
Left-hander Jared Shuster, who entered the season as the Braves’ top prospect, will make his MLB debut in Sunday’s series finale, which begins at 1:35 p.m. He will face lefty MacKenzie Gore.
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