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game_thread_were_winning_because_of_brian_mccann_and_casey_kotchman | May | 2009 Articles

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Game Thread: We're Winning Because of Brian McCann and Casey Kotchman

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Johan Santana vs. Derek Lowe. This is what you pay the money for. It's our number one versus their number one. Brian McCann's back, our lineup's got all the names we paid for, and we've won 4 out of our last 5 games. We're ready to face the Mets. Unfortunately, since they're on a 7-game winning streak of their own, they're ready to face us.

If you wanted, you could divide the Braves' season into three parts: the first week (Apr. 5-12), when we started out 5-1; the next three weeks, when we were 6-14 (Apr. 14-May 5); and the last five days, over which we're 4-1 (May 6-10). Obviously, that's arbitrary, but it certainly describes how the fanbase has felt about the team, and while it all adds up to a team that's just a game below .500 and has scored 3 fewer runs than it's allowed.

Funnily enough, though, those three parts of the season seem rather coincidental with something else. On April 10, Brian McCann went 3-5 and was batting .400 on the season (the Braves were 3-1). Then he went 2 for his next 26 (April 11-22) and went on the DL from April 24 to May 7 -- the Braves were 3-7 during his struggles before he went on the DL, and 6-7 after the Braves DLed him and made David Ross the full-time catcher. Brian came back May 8, and the Braves are 2-1 since his return.

However, Brian aside, as Mac Thomason mentioned months ago, the secret key to the Braves' year is Casey Kotchman, hero of last night's game. Kotch was a wreck last year, batting .237 in 152 at-bats after the Teixeira trade, but he's quietly heating up and is right now one of the best hitters in our lineup, probably third behind Chipper and McCann. Since April 18, when he was hitting .243/.317/.324 -- almost exactly what he hit for us in 2008 -- he's at .347/.397/.569, hitting for average and power while walking a fair amount and not striking out too much. In short, he's hitting like a middle-of-the-order hitter. A first baseman, if you will. He won't keep that up, but a full-season OPS close to his current .856 isn't out of the question. If he manages that, our lineup suddenly gets a lot more legit.
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