06/03/10 — Andrew column

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Andrew column

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on June 3, 2010 1:47 PM

A month ago Bobby Cox's 25th and final season as manager of the Atlanta Braves appeared to have the early makings of one to forget rather than to remember.

Atlanta began a three-game series with Houston on April 30. The Braves had lost nine straight games, were in last place in the National League East and trailed first-place Philadelphia by five games.

What a difference one month can make.

The Braves rebounded from a shaky 9-14 start in April to go 20-8 in May. Atlanta is in the midst of an eight-game winning streak, has won 18 of its last 22 contests and holds a 2 1/2-game lead over the Phillies.

One key to the Braves' turnaround has been the torrid stretch first baseman Troy Glaus has been on at the plate. Glaus hit .194 with nine RBI in 23 games in April.

He responded with a .330 average, three doubles, six home runs, and 28 RBI in 28 games in May.

Atlanta's team batting average of .279 trailed Cincinnati's .299 for tops in the National League in May.

Cox's insertion of second baseman Martin Prado into the lead-off spot continues to pay dividends. Prado is hitting .321, has 24 multi-hit games and he leads the National League with 73 hits.

Shortstop Yunel Escobar has rediscovered his stroke at the plate. He entered Wednesday's game with Philadelphia having hit .423 over the past seven games to raise his batting average from .188 to .221.

Rookie phenom right fielder Jason Heyward continues to live up to the hype that surrounded the Georgia native during spring training. The 20-year-old Heyward leads the Braves in home runs (10) and triples (3) and shares the club lead in stolen bases with four. Through Wednesday, Heyward had a .287 batting average with 38 RBI, a .563 slugging percentage and a .412 on-base percentage.

Heyward is in the top 10 in the National League in RBI, walks, slugging and on-base percentage..

Atlanta's pitching staff has lived up to its end of the bargain during the Braves' recent winning streak. Starters Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe and Tommy Hanson are a combined 19-8.

Hudson and Hanson both have ERA's at 3.00 or lower and Hudson has worked into the sixth inning or later in 10 of his 11 starts. He ranks in the top 10 in the NL in wins, ERA, walk to strikeout ratio and win percentage.

Atlanta has given fans at Turner Field plenty to cheer about over the first two months of the season. The Braves are a Major League best 19-6 at home.

However, Atlanta hasn't won an NL East Divisional title since 2005 when its streak of 15 in a row came to an end. It's far too early to be clearing room for a 16th divisional title banner and a second World Series trophy.

But it certainly isn't too early to start thinking about sending Cox out with one last season to remember.