They know it won’t last forever, but Braves hitters are enjoying the ride

Credit: Matthew Stockman

Credit: Matthew Stockman

The Braves’ majors-leading offense has been one of the more surprising stories of this fledgling baseball season, and on a frigid Friday in Denver, it surprised even the team’s hitting coach.

They scored four runs in the first inning and cruised to an 8-3 series-opening win against the Rockies in a game that was delayed an hour at the start by snow, and the Braves entered Saturday with a 5-2 record and a majors-leading 56 runs, the most scored by any major league team through its first seven games since the 2003 Yankees scored 61 runs.

“We’re facing different pitching every night, different repertoires, and the guys have been making good adjustments, sticking with their plan and their approach, and it’s been fun,” Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer said. “Especially (Friday) in that cold weather. I was shocked. I didn’t expect a good offensive day in 27 degrees.”

It was the second-coldest game in Coors Field history, and the Braves got things started with a first-inning home run by Ozzie Albies, a Curacao native who had never seen snow before he went on the field before the game Friday and looked at it with a sense of wonder.

“I saw snow and I was excited, acting like a little kid out there,” who came to bat with one out and none on and put the Braves ahead 1-0 on the second pitch he saw. “I put the barrel on the ball and watched it fly, it was awesome.”

Dansby Swanson added a two-run triple in the four-run inning, and the Braves never looked back on their way to their third win in their past four games at Coors, where they had lost their previous 11 in a row.

“Ozzie had never seen snow, and he hits a homer in his first at-bat in the snow,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I’m proud of the way they went out and just kind of played the game. Guys weren’t griping in here or anything. It was something we had to do. It wasn’t going to change. Proud of the way they went out and got after it. Ran the bases well, swung the bats, had some good at-bats.”

Swanson said of Friday’s first inning, “Any time you come on the road and can make a statement like that early, I think it’s a big deal.”

Like the Braves’ offense in general, so far at least. Their 56 runs through seven games were the most the Braves scored to start a season in the franchise’s modern era, which began in 1901.

Entering Saturday’s game the Braves led the majors in numerous offensive categories including runs, batting average (.298), on-base percentage (.381) and hitting with runners in scoring position (.443, more than 100 points higher than the next-best). They were second in slugging percentage (.488).

“They’re just having good at-bats right now,” Seitzer said. “Really good plan, really good approach. We’ve got a really good idea of what the pitcher’s trying to do and the guys are being very disciplined right now, hunting their pitch in their zone and just being ready.

“It’s like you said, I don’t like to talk about it just because there’s going to be so many hills and valleys during the season, but you really take advantage and enjoy this ride as it unfolds. It’s nice to get off to a good start. We’ve just got to try and keep it going

The Braves had two of the majors’ individual top 10 in OPS before Saturday, one that was not at all surprising and one that was very much so. Freddie Freeman ranked second with a 1.436 OPS, not surprising for a guy who led the majors in OBP (.618), walks and hitting with runners in scoring position. But no one would’ve predicted left fielder Preston Tucker would rank ninth in the majors, with a 1.244 OPS after seven games.

Nor would anyone probably have believed you if you’d told them that third baseman Ryan Flaherty, ostensibly filling in for injured Johan Camargo, would be hitting .400 (10-for-25) with four doubles and a .516 OBP that ranked third in the majors through seven games.

“Freddie’s doing his thing. Nicky (Markakis) is doing his thing,” Seitzer said of the veteran leaders of the offense. “But the ones that have been real shots in the arm have been Tucker and Flaherty. They’ve been doing really, really special things to help us that makes our lineup deep when they’re having ABs like that. It’s good getting Zuke back (catcher Kurt Suzuki, who returned to the lineup Friday after missing give games with a buised hand).

“I like what I’m seeing with (catcher Carlos) Perez; we’re making some adjustments with his swing. He’s got some talent, especially on the defensive side. So, get Ender (Inciarte) going. Albies is swinging it better his last two or three games, made a couple of little adjustments with him. It’s just trying to get everybody clicking.

“It’s like when you go home at night you can never rest easy because there’s always somebody that you’re concerned about, trying to get them over the hump and get them going.”