10/03/2004 7:00 PM ET
Braves monthly recap
Atlanta rolls to division lead in July
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
|Chipper Jones enjoyed his finest month of the season in August, batting .337 with 11 homers and 29 RBIs as the Braves went 20-8. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
When Rafael Furcal strained his back during the season's first weekend, it was a foreboding foreshadowing of what lied ahead. Chipper Jones strained his left hamstring on April 18 and was lost for three weeks. The Braves managed to stay afloat because they took five of six against the Marlins in the season's first month.
Mark DeRosa's five-error performance at Coors Field on May 2 was painful. But it didn't bring near the agony the Braves felt when they lost Marcus Giles to a broken collarbone injury he suffered May 15. Ben Sheets struck out 18 Braves on May 16, and on May 18, Randy Johnson was perfect against Atlanta at Turner Field. To cap an agonizing month, the Braves lost Adam LaRoche with a separated shoulder on May 28.
If not for the encouraging conclusion, this would have been the Braves' worst month. Their pitching staff posted a 4.94 ERA and they lost two of three to the Royals at home. That came during a stretch where they lost 10 of 13. But their seven-run eighth-inning in a June 26 comeback at Camden Yards, propelled them in a streak, during which they won 16 of 19.
Utilizing the momentum, they gained in late June, the Braves stormed to the top of the NL East standings. They won nine of the month's first 11 games and never surrendered their position after assuming sole possession of first place July 23. The month was dominated by Jaret Wright, Russ Ortiz and Mike Hampton, who combined to go 14-0 with a 1.87 ERA.
Although the pitching staff posted a 4.05 ERA, the Braves continued surging with the help of an offense that batted .311 with 35 homers during the month. During a crucial seven-game road trip against the Padres and Giants, they went 4-3. Chipper Jones enjoyed his finest month of the season, batting .337 with 11 homers and 29 RBIs.
The resilient Braves clinched their unprecedented 13th consecutive division title in fitting fashion Sept. 24 with a comeback victory over the Marlins at Turner Field. By taking five of six games against the Marlins during the month, the Braves ensured there will be a new world champion this year. With a Sept. 29 win against the Mets, Bobby Cox became the ninth manager in Major League history to register 2,000 career victories.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.