If you guessed this, congratulations: Two turns through the rotation, Reynaldo López has statistically been the Braves’ best starting pitcher.

It is not that López is not capable – he is a stud. It is just that the Braves also employ Spencer Strider, Max Fried, Chris Sale and Charlie Morton, who have all come without many, if any, questions.

López, on the other hand, is a starter-turned–reliever-turned-starter. The Braves’ decision to stretch him out is paying off early.

López shut down the Mets as the Braves beat New York, 6-5, on Tuesday at Truist Park. His start became even more important when the Mets stormed back to score five runs over the final two innings.

Five observations:

1. During his two seasons in the bullpen after being a full-time starter, López never focused on whether or not he would be a starter again. He spent his time as a reliever learning things that might help him down the road.

“Thinking back, I thought to myself, ‘If I would’ve known these things as a starter, it would’ve been a different story,’” López said through interpreter Franco García after Tuesday’s start.

This is his chance for a different story.

The Braves are using López as a starter for the foreseeable future. And if he continues pitching like this, his long-term value for them might be as a starter.

Across six scoreless innings, López gave up three hits and issued three walks. The Mets only took four at-bats with men in scoring position versus López, and they failed to convert in all of them.

One after another, the Mets looked rather helpless. They hardly threatened López, who cruised through the lineup.

This keeps coming to mind: López is a better pitcher than in 2021, when he last started a handful of games.

“I think I’m a very different pitcher than I was three years ago,” López said. “I can say that, thinking a few years back, I didn’t have the type of command that I have on my breaking pitches. Now to have the type of command that I have on my curveball and my other breaking pitches, I feel confident to throw any pitch in any count.”

On Tuesday, the right-hander threw 20 curveballs and 12 sliders – a switch from when he hurled more sliders as a reliever. He produced five whiffs in 10 swings on the curveball, and three whiffs on five swings with the slider.

In a homestand when Strider suffered damage to his UCL and Fried had another poor first inning, López provided more reason to believe in the depth of Atlanta’s rotation.

Lopez has allowed one run over 12 innings across his first two starts.

Tuesday might’ve been better than his season debut in Chicago.

“I thought the same thing,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I thought his stuff was a little sharper, and (it felt like) he kind of had a little extra when he needed it, and thought it was better – and it was really good in Chicago, but I thought today was a tick up, even.”

2. In Atlanta’s second at-bat of the game, Ozzie Albies doubled.

After that, the Braves – who finished with 11 hits – singled 10 times.

Yes, that’s right: The powerful Braves, the guys who mash homers and pile on the extra-base hits, moved from one base to the other. They had a great offensive night without the extra-base hits.

The Braves began the third inning versus Adrian Houser with six consecutive singles. Six! They scored three times to push their lead to four runs.

Tuesday’s offensive performance showed something that became prevalent last season: The Braves can blast homer after homer, but they can also beat teams more methodically. They aren’t just good sluggers – they’re great hitters.

“It’s great,” Ronald Acuña Jr. said through García about hitting in this lineup. “It feels like when something’s not going right for one player, there’s eight other guys in the lineup who will pick you up and get it done.”

3. Through seven innings, the Braves led 6-0. They were on their way to an easy victory in the light rain.

Then their bullpen, which had a rough night on Monday, followed with another. It got dicey.

Tyler Matzek gave up a three-run homer to Pete Alonso in the eighth. In the ninth, Raisel Iglesias permitted two more runs, but struck out Alonso to end the game and leave the tying run on first base.

“That was a tough ballgame and a good one to win,” Snitker said. “I don’t know that Reynaldo realizes how big that six innings was.”

4. Acuña stole three bases. He wasn’t simply waiting for his knee to feel better to do so – he’s felt healthy all along.

“I was just waiting to get on base because I felt like I hadn’t been on base in forever,” he said, laughing.

Entering Tuesday, Acuña had hit .222 with a .611 OPS. The reigning National League MVP expects to get rolling soon.

“It’s like I said: It’s a long season,” he said. “(This is) not an excuse, so I want to preface with that: But I feel like I didn’t really get the maximum number of at-bats that I would’ve gotten during a normal spring training, obviously, with the knee. But like I said, it’s a long season and I think things will start turning around.”

Acuña missed a couple weeks while dealing with irritation in his right meniscus during spring training. He tried to get as many at-bats as he could, but he might be a bit behind.

Tuesday, though, provided a flashback to last season, as Acuña went 2-for-3 with a walk and three runs scored.

5. On Wednesday, the Braves plan to start Allan Winans, whom they recalled on Sunday when they placed Strider on the 15-day injured list. They’d planned to start Winans versus the Mets if they didn’t need to use him out of the bullpen on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday.

Their starters held up, so Winans will get a big-league opportunity. And in case you forgot: The Mets once exposed him to the minor-league Rule 5 Draft, which means they didn’t think he was worthy of even being put on their 38-man Triple A roster.

In six major-league starts since debuting last summer, Winans has a 5.29 ERA.

Winans is fully stretched out.

“We’ll take him as far as he’ll let us,” Snitker said.

Stat to know

3 - Acuña’s three stolen bases matched a career high (previously done April 22, 2023 versus Houston)


“I think regardless of the bad weather, the primary thing for me is to not lose my focus. It can be cold, it can be raining, but for me, it’s all about maintaining my focus. If I’ve lost my focus, I’ve already lost that game. It doesn’t matter if there’s bad weather or whatever, the primary thing is maintaining my focus and locating my pitches.” - López on pitching well despite bad weather in both of his starts thus far

Up next

The Braves will face left-hander Jose Quintana on Wednesday at 7:20 p.m. And before this, Winans allowed two earned runs over 5 2/3 frames in his lone start for Triple-A Gwinnett.