The Braves — who were off Sunday after completing a rejuvenating 6-2 homestand on Saturday — kick off a long eight-game road trip tonight when they visit McCormick Field in Asheville for the opener of a four-game series against the Tourists.
McCormick Field has a proclivity to yield home runs, as the thin mountain air supplies an extra power boost for hitters, and turns routine fly balls into long balls.
“I’d probably say it is the best park in the league for hitters,” said manager Randy Ingle. “You’ve got the short porch in left field, and the ball really carries in that place.”
Still, Ingle said his staff isn’t likely to be intimidated — especially considering the way the group has pitched in recent days.
The Rome staff put together a string of 30 consecutive scoreless innings during the homestand, including posting back-to-back shutouts of the first-place Lexington Legends. The superb pitching helped the Braves (15-15) sweep a four-game series from the Legends and move within two games of first place in the South Atlantic League’s Southern Division.
“I’m not worried about going into a hitter’s park,” said Ingle. “We know that every night we’ll be sending a pitcher out there who is capable of shutting down the opponent, no matter where (the game is).”
In the past seven games, the Braves’ pitchers combined to go 6-1 with a 1.98 ERA, including 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA in the Lexington series. The terrific stretch was highlighted by the 30-inning scoreless streak, which is presumed to be a club record.
“Thirty innings in a row is pretty phenomenal,” said Ingle. “In order to do that, you have to have great pitching and great defense. And we had both during the homestand. We played good baseball.”
When the Braves broke camp last month, it was believed that the team’s pitching staff had the chance to be among the best in the league. The heralded group included several of the top-rated prospects in the Atlanta farm system, and became even stronger with the recent addition of Brett DeVall.
After a mediocre start to the season, the Braves’ staff is now showing what all the hype was about.
“They’re living up to what we thought they could be,” said Ingle. “It’s fun to watch.”
NOTE: After completing the four-game series in Asheville, the Braves will go to Greenville (another hitter-friendly park) for a four-game series. The team returns to State Mutual Stadium on May 20 to open an eight-game homestand.