Strong starts for Braves pitchers against lowly Marlins

Apr. 27—Maybe concerns about the Atlanta Braves' starting rotation were a little premature. Yes, losing Spencer Strider hurts over the course of a season, but the Braves responded this week with stellar performances.

Yes, the foe was Miami, maybe the worst team in the National League. Yes, they present a minimal threat to the Atlanta Braves' reign as National League East Division champs. But Braves fans had to be encouraged by the outings the starting staff strung together this week.

It started with Bryce Elder, somehow an afterthought after earning All-Star recognition a season ago. He failed to make the team coming out of spring training which still was surprising. But after Strider's season was cut short prematurely, the Braves needed a boost of positive energy from the starting rotation. Elder delivered.

He pitched against the Marlins on Monday and scattered eight hits over 6.2 innings with four strikeouts. He was extremely efficient, using only 87 pitches in a 3-0 win. Elder struggled down the stretch of last season but still finished with a 12-4 record and 3.81 ERA. Elder started last season on fire, which was a reason he was pegged for his first All-Star game. He is off to another fast start this year.

If Elder was efficient, Max Fried was uber efficient the next day. He limited the Marlins to three hits over nine shutout innings with six strikeouts as the Braves prevailed 5-0. The performance conjured up memories of legendary hurler Greg Maddox who would often baffle opposing hitters and not need many pitches to do so. Fried only required 92 on Tuesday and served notice that concerning slow start is long behind him.

Reynaldo Lopez continues to baffle hitters and remind others around the league how much of a genius Alex Anthopolous is with his latest acquisition. Lopez only threw 82 pitches in seven innings, limiting the Marlins to three hits and one run. While he didn't get the much-deserved win, Lopez still lowered his league-leading ERA to 0.72. He's allowed only two runs in four starts.

The starting staff seemed like it was in deep trouble when Strider was lost for the season. But Elder's, Fried's and Lopez's performances this week reminded Braves fans that the talent does not just reside on the offensive side of the ball. Starting pitching can still be a strength and will need to be if the Braves hope to get over that postseason hump in October.

As for now, we'll settle for a strong series showing against the lowly Marlins.