Less than two weeks ago, the Atlanta Braves had their largest division deficit in 13 years. The surging Braves have since turned things around and look to extend their season-high winning streak to five when they open a weekend series with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday.
On May 6, Atlanta (21-20) lost its fourth straight game and was nine games out of first place for the first time since Aug. 11, 1993, when the Braves trailed the San Francisco Giants by nine games in the NL West.
The Braves have now won nine of 11 games to move above .500 for the first time since April 7 and close within 3 1/2 games of the first-place New York Mets in the NL East.
“From what I hear, we’ve always been a slow-starting team,” said Jeff Francoeur, who made his major league debut last July. “I’ve never been through it myself, but hopefully we’re coming together now.”
Francoeur went 3-for-4 with two homers and a double to extend his career-best hitting streak to 16 games in Atlanta’s 9-1 win over Florida on Thursday, completing a four-game sweep.
The 22-year-old right fielder is 26-for-74 (.351) with six homers and 22 RBIs during his hitting streak.
John Thomson (1-3, 1.87 ERA) hopes Atlanta, which scored 30 runs in the Florida series, has saved some offense for his start on Friday.
The right-hander has allowed just seven earned runs in seven starts this season, but his teammates have provided him with no runs in three of those outings.
He allowed just one earned run and eight hits in five innings of an 8-1 loss to Washington on Sunday. The Braves scored their lone run in the bottom of the ninth.
Thomson is 2-3 with a 4.96 ERA in 10 career starts against the Diamondbacks.
Arizona (22-18) has won three of its last four, and is a half-game behind first-place San Diego in the NL West.
The Diamondbacks lost to San Diego 14-10 on Wednesday. Arizona starting pitchers have combined to pitch just 2 2-3 innings in the last two games, allowing nine earned runs and six hits.
“We need the off-day, believe me, we need the off-day,” Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin said. “We can’t keep (getting starters knocked out early) once or twice a week, so we have find a way to get deeper in the game with everybody.”
Arizona has used eight different relief pitchers in the last two games, and after using Friday’s originally scheduled starter Claudio Vargas to pitch the last two innings on Wednesday, Miguel Batista will be moved up to start Friday.
Batista (3-2, 4.44 ERA) had a no hitter through 4 2-3 innings in Sunday’s 7-6 win over St. Louis. He went on to give up three unearned runs and four hits in 5 2-3 innings, but did not factor in the decision.
The right-hander is 2-4 with a 7.31 ERA in seven career starts against Atlanta.
Atlanta has won seven of its last 10 meetings with Arizona, and five of its last seven at Chase Field.