He said the starters are feeding off each other’s success and trying to outdo one another.
“Every time someone goes out you want to kind of top them, you want to be better,” said Newcomb, who’s 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA in his past five starts with 36 strikeouts with 11 walks in 30 1/3 innings, including eight strikeouts with one walk Wednesday. “It’s been fun, everyone’s been contributing really well. It’s a good start.”
It’s a start that no pundits predicted from the Braves, whom even the most optimistic projections had flirting with .500 or slightly over. No pundits picked them to compete for the division title and hardly anyone even mentioned them as a darkhorse candidate for a wild-card berth.
But here they are moving into first place on May 2, pounding Noah Syndergaard for 10 hits in six innings of Tuesday’s series-opening win and torching the Mets bullpen for seven runs after Jacob deGrom’s left with a hyperextended elbow after four innings Wednesday.
Atlanta got home runs Wednesday from Ender Inciarte, who is 6-for-12 with four extra-base hits since being dropped to the ninth spot in the order Sunday, and from Johan Camargo and Ryan Flaherty.
The Braves are 13-6 against teams with above-.500 records, the second-most wins in the majors against winning teams, behind only the Cubs (14-8).
“Our confidence is pretty high in here right now,” Freeman said. “We’ve been playing great baseball since Day 1. To go out there and win games that Syndergaard and deGrom started – hopefully deGrom’s doing OK over there; you never want to see a top-three pitcher in the game go down like that, so hopefully it’s nothing serious – but to win games like that on the road, when you’re down a game and a half, to take over first place, it’s big for us.”
It’s only the first week in May, but Braves manager Brian Snitker didn’t try to downplay the importance of being in first place. For the Braves, who’ve endured three consecutive 90-loss seasons during a painful rebuild, turning the corner to being not just respectable but in first place at this point of a season has meaning.
“Absolutely,” Snitker said. “Especially the schedule that we’ve faced here the first month. Man, it seems like every night we’re facing a Syndergaard or deGrom or (Max) Scherzer or (Stephen) Strasburg. I mean, it just keeps coming at you, and really good teams. I’m proud of the way the guys have hung in there and we’ve been competitive, we’ve been in every game and we’ve given ourselves a chance to win.”