ATLANTA -- Fredi Gonzalez said that he had daily expectations that his club would break out of its hitting slump. Friday, those expectations became reality.
"That's the way I wake up every morning, 'Ttoday's the day,'" the manager of the Atlanta Braves said. "You always think that way, that you've got that nice run in you. I feel we can do it. We've got a good bunch of guys that can hit."
The Braves had lost 12 of their last 15 games. The offense was the problem, not the solution. In eight of those losses, the Braves had scored two runs or less. In the process, the Braves had fallen six games behind Washington in the NL East and three games out of the second National League Wild Card spot.
But you wouldn't have known there was a hint of a slump by the Braves' performance with the bats Friday night. And it wasn't a question of the degree of difficulty declining. The opposition was the Oakland Athletics, owners of baseball's best record.
Against Oakland starter Jason Hammel, Justin Upton homered in the second inning and so did Evan Gattis. In the third, Jason Heyward singled, Phil Gosselin singled and Freddie Freeman cleared the bases with a three-run homer.
The Braves fully grasped the notion that at this point in the season, when it came to run production, there was no more time to wait.
"We got the series off on the right foot," Gosselin said. "It was fun to be out there. You want to get it going, but you can't press. We were trying to stay loose and have good at-bats. Justin got us off to a good start and it kind of rolled from there."
The Braves produced considerably more than enough offense in this one as Alex Wood pitched effectively, giving up two runs over six innings, A trio of Atlanta relievers held the A's without a base runner over the final three innings for a 7-2 Braves victory.
It was a solid, if not prodigious offensive display, The last time the Braves scored more than seven runs in a game was July 27. Whether or not this is the real turning point for the Braves' offense, this game was a very good spot for an offensive revival. The next two nights the Braves will face Sonny Gray (12-6, 2.86) and the A's new ace, Jon Lester (13-7, 2.51). The Braves had seen Hammel in seven starts prior to Friday night. They have never faced Gray.
"We've talked for three or four games about how the approach [at the plate] has gotten better, maybe not the results," Gonzalez said. "Today we hit the ball hard. Even some outs were hit hard. We saw some good [at-bats]."
How will we be able to tell when the corner has actually been turned for the Atlanta lineup? "For me, if you start winning series again," the manager said. "If you start winning two out of three, three out of three, two out of three. Then, OK, we're rolling again."
The job of a manager during the tough times is part morale officer, part psychologist, part keeper of the flame. Gonzalez was asked Friday what he said to hitting coach Greg Walker and assistant hitting coach Scott Fletcher during the time of offensive struggle.
"You've got to give them a little love," Gonzalez said. "My job's easy. That job [hitting coach] and the pitching coach's job are the hardest jobs in baseball. So you give them a lot of love. Give them a lot of 'hang in there,' keep it positive.
"And [Walker] is maybe the most positive guy I've ever been around. He still gets a little down, because you know, you're so invested in every at-bat. You've got all these guys and you're in there keeping positive and battling and fixing. It's almost like those psychologists and psychiatrists that deal with people's problems all the time. It's like: 'Who talks to you at the end of the night? Who do you see?' I guess that's my job."
It is. And waking up in the morning expecting an awakening from the Braves lineup also could be part of the job description. Friday night, at least, Fredi Gonzalez's daily optimism turned into reality.
Michael Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less