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Braves Magic Number is Dwindling, Atlanta Pitchers are Peaking

It is becoming apparent and as real as the Atlanta skyline.

The Braves are not only going to win another National League East Division title, they are also a severe threat to the Los Angeles Dodgers dominance, come playoff time.

To put it simply, the Atlanta Braves are legitimate pennant contenders in the National League. The Braves are closing the gap between themselves and the Dodgers. Atlanta is playing its best baseball since Bobby Cox retired.

The Braves were 34 games over .500 on Monday morning. Atlanta is riding high in the saddle with an 89-55 record. This week in baseball got underway for the Braves with a nine-game lead over the Washington Nationals and a 14-game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies in the division.

The prognosis and the feeling is pretty good for the Braves down on the reservation. Atlanta has its pitching staff to thank for much of that. In the past 30 days and then some, Atlanta’s pitching staff has returned from the dead.

Atlanta has found its pitching mojo. The Braves are giving up fewer walks. They are throwing more strikes. And they are bailing themselves out with some timely double plays.

The Braves have sliced their team earned run average to 4.23. Atlanta’s pitchers are ignoring the pressure and are following through with 1,241 strikeouts in the first 144 games of the season.

Just 18 games remain in the regular season for Atlanta. The Braves are looking like a playoff team with a squad full of pitchers with nerves of steel. They want to carry the team. They want to win today’s game.

The Braves are building pitching depth with guys who can win in the postseason. Max Fried is 16-4 on the year with a 3.86 ERA. Mike Soroka is 11-4 on the season with 126 strikeouts.

Atlanta is more than willing to give the ball to Julio Teheran as well. He is one of the most unselfish Atlanta pitchers with a 10-8 record and an ERA of 3.31. Teheran has 154 strikeouts on the season.

Dallas Keuchel is coming on, too, for the Braves with a 7-5 record, 73 strikeouts and a 3.47 ERA. Right-handed reliever Luke Jackson also has a rubber arm, along with a record of 8-2 with 18 saves and a 3.97 earned run average.

The Braves are fitting Mark Melancon and Mike Foltynewicz into the pitching routine, too. Melancon has nine saves in the last month, along with 20 lateinning strikeouts.

Foltynewicz is also making a comeback with a 5-5 record and 81 strikeouts. He is once again being counted on by the Braves. Foltynewicz is winning a few and is rediscovering his pitching form.

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Chris Fernsler Sports Writer