Atlanta — It took them 14 innings, but the real Michael Harris II and the Atlanta Braves have finally arrived to their matchup with the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Division Series.
Despite finishing the season with the best record in the National League and one of the most prolific offenses in MLB history, the Braves bats were silent against Philadelphia in Game 1.
The best offense in baseball suddenly couldn’t buy a run, recording their first shutout loss at home since the middle of summer.
Phillies starting pitcher Zack Wheeler was dominant to begin Game 2 Monday night, holding the Braves hitless through five innings before second baseman Ozzie Albies recorded a single in the 6th inning that sparked the Braves offense.
Atlanta Finally Gets Bats Going
Atlanta wasn’t finished after finally breaking through in the 6th, scoring again in the 7th and eventually taking the lead on a two-run homer by Ron Washington disciple Austin Riley.
As for Harris, he hasn’t been able to translate his regular season success to postseason glory just yet at the plate but still found a way to help his team secure the victory.
With one out in the ninth, Phillies right fielder Nick Castellanos sent a deep drive into right centerfield between Harris and Ronald Acuna Jr that sent Money Mike flying through the Atlanta sky and into the wall, to take away an extra base hit that would have potentially tied the game in the 9th.
The MLBbro and 2022 NL Rookie of the Year, fired the ball back into the infield, and third baseman Austin Riley made the perfect fundamental play, backing up the cutoff man Albies to double off Bryce Harper to end the game.
Harris is 0-7 at the plate so far this series, but that catch and throw will be talked about for years to come.
The play was a true example of how multifaceted he is and the game-changing talent he can bring to the game even when his bat is a bit cold.
“I had some of the toughest times of my life down there,” Walker told MLBbro.com. “Most of what I learned was mental. I felt the worst I ever have at the plate. But I realized no matter what you are going through at some point you will get out of it.”
Walker will end this month hitting over .330 while adding four home runs, nine RBI and a .418 on base percentage.
He looks to extend the streak to 20 after a three-game series against the Yankees this weekend.
2. “Money” Michael Harris II
Michael Harris recovered from a Rookie of the Year hangover and became the best nine-hole hitter in baseball in a month’s time.
Last night, Michael Harris II and the NL East leading Atlanta Braves opened up a three-game home set with Mookie Betts and the NL West leading Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday night.
Dodgers Strike First
After a 40-minute rain delay, the Braves and Dodgers finally got to work. The Braves put up four runs in the bottom half of the first, but it was mostly Mookie and the Dodgers from there on out.
The Dodgers would put up eight runs when it was all said and done, going home with the 8-6 victory. Michael Harris went 0-4 with two strikeouts while Mookie was 1-4 with a hit, walk, run and RBI. Harris and the Braves will look to even the series tonight.
These teams have faced off in two of the last three National League Championship Series, so the excitement around this matchup could be felt from both fan bases. Albeit early in the season, it’s always good to see how your squad fares against a team that potentially stands between you and a trip to the World Series.
Now Bleacher Report blessed us with an exclusive conversation between Betts and Harris before their teams matched up Monday night, but let’s take a closer look at this clash between these two baseball titans who reside 2,189 miles apart.
Braves Continue to Build A Contender
The Braves have continued to be one of the most consistent franchises in North American professional sports, cultivating a culture that has created one of the most fun teams to watch in all of baseball.
Even Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts took note last summer while showing some love to center fielder Michael Harris II. “They can pitch, they can catch it. That Harris kid out there in center field, he’s a game changer out there. They have some slug. They have a lot of guys that play the game the right way. It’s just fun playing against those guys.”
Harris came into this season looking to build on his rookie campaign and has packed on an additional 10 pounds of muscle to his six-foot frame in order to endure the rigors of a 162-game season. Harris has struggled to find his form from last season, but the Braves haven’t missed a beat.
Atlanta is 29-18 as of Tuesday (May 22) and have dominated an NL East division that was expected to be highly competitive. The Mets are five games behind Atlanta in the standings with 10 head-to-head matchups remaining this season.
Dodgers Payola Continues to be Fruitful
Despite numerous injuries to key players on their pitching staff as well as the lineup, the Dodgers have been able to power through it all to remain atop the NL West.
A major reason for their success despite these setbacks has been the play of their Gold Glove outfielder turned utility infielder Mookie Betts. Betts’ versatility has come in clutch for LA, who have used their superstar in spot starts at short.
Even with the added pressure of playing a premier defensive position, Betts has continued to shine at the plate for the Dodgers. One aspect of his game that has remained elite is his patience at the plate. According to baseballsavant.com, Betts is currently ranked in the 89th percentile in walk percentage, 85th percentile in whiff percentage and the 99th percentile in chase rate.
His average has dipped to .250, but his xBA of .281 gives us hope that some of these balls he has hit directly at defenders will eventually start falling for hits.
MLBbro.com goes into extensive detail on a daily basis about the journey Black ball players must take in order to make it to The Show. Over the years, while the number of players making it has dwindled significantly, one thing has remained consistent; The state of Georgia continues to produce some of the best Black baseball players on the planet.
Now there are more players from Georgia scattered around the Minor Leagues as well as College Baseball, but here is a list of the nine most notable and current Black major leaguers who hail from the Peach State.
Jason “J-Hey” Heyward – Outfielder, Los Angeles Dodgers
The OG of this group, ironically enough Heyward made his Major League debut in a Braves uniform. Jason burst into The Bigs in April 2010 and wasted no time making his presence felt. Heyward homered in his first major league at-bat, adding even more fuel to the fire sparked by the greatest Brave of all time; Henry “Hank” Aaron. While he didn’t live up to the hype placed on him by the former home run king, Heyward has carved out a great MLB career that includes five Gold Gloves and a World Series title.
Mullins was born in North Carolina but played his high school ball in Georgia. Drafted in the 13th round of the 2015 draft, Mullins has made it clear that he is an essential part of the Orioles Rebuild. Cedric has already made an All Star game and won a Silver Slugger award, along with becoming a member of the vaunted 30/30 club.
“Money” Michael Harris II – Outfielder, Atlanta Braves
The Braves shocked some when they called Harris up from double A last season due to injuries on the big league club, but Money Mike has done nothing but show up. Harris quickly became one of the most reliable bats in the Braves loaded lineup, and has played a Gold Glove caliber centerfield since day one. Harris’ spectacular season was rewarded by Major League Baseball, as he was named the National League Rookie of The Year.
Kyle Lewis – Outfielder, Arizona Diamondbacks
Can #MLBbro Kyle Lewis Regain His Rookie of the Year Swagger in Arizona?
Now with his second team, it wasn’t too long ago that Kyle Lewis received the same type of praise we see the aforementioned Michael Harris receives.
Lewis made his debut in 2019, but it was his 2020 season (his first full season in the bigs), that saw him hit 11 home runs and maintain an OPS of .801 en route to winning the American League Rookie of the Year Award. Injuries have derailed Lewis’ progress, and he will look to revive his career out in the desert.
Jordan ‘Sky’ Walker – Outfielder, St. Louis Cardinals
One of the biggest prospects in all of baseball, both figuratively and literally, Jordan Walker has shown Cardinals fans early and often that he could be a future cornerstone of this ball club. Walker started his career by posting the longest hit streak by a rookie in 111 years.
His bat has cooled off lately, but fans can expect more fireworks from Jordan as the season progresses.
The number one prospect in what has historically been on of the most successful farm systems in the bigs, the 22-year-old Bradley is poised to make a name for himself on the big stage. The AL starter for the All-Star Futures game in Los Angeles last season, Bradley broke camp this year with the big league club and has impressed. Bradley is 2-0 with 2.66 ERA so far with Tampa, striking out 17 batters along the way.
CJ Abrams – Shortstop, Washington Nationals
Once one of the top prospects in the Padres farm system, Abrams found himself a part of the trade that sent Juan Soto to Southern California. Now in DC, Abrams looks to cement his place as a part of the Nationals young core.
Akil Baddoo – Outfielder, Detroit Tigers
Baddoo has the most service time on this list after Mullins and Heyward, with this season being his third year of big league experience. He hit 13 home runs and had an OPS+ of 112 in 2021.
This season, there’s no question that Michael Harris II will be an impact player for the Atlanta Braves.
The five-tool phenom showed his multitude of abilities by going 1-for-4 with two runs scored in a 7-2 Braves win on Opening Day of the 2023 MLB season.
The reigning National League Rookie of the Year has the potential to become an all-star very soon. If you had the opportunity to see him play last season, you know that he’s a baller and leaves it all out on the field.
The question is, will Harris be able to continue the success he had as a rookie in year two? Well one former Atlanta Braves player, now starting for the LA Dodgers, thinks Harris will continue to play at a high level and make an impact.
Let’s take it back to 2010 when a former Braves player named Jason Heyward made his MLB debut and took the league by storm as a rookie. Heyward was named an all-star as a rookie and was poised to be a star in Atlanta. In fact, Hank Aaron himself, anointed the J-Hey Kid as the next great Black superstar for the Atlanta Braves.
Heyward was only named an all-star once during his five-year tenure in Atlanta and while he put up decent numbers, the Braves decided to move on from him after the 2014 season. While his career is widely respected, especially his defense and clubhouse pedigree, Heyward’s peak was never superstar level. Harris has the opportunity to have a long career playing for the team he grew up watching as a kid.
Michael Harris II Can Show Rookie Season Was No Fluke
Going into his second season, Harris will have the knowledge and experience he gained from his rookie season and that will work out in his favor. He finished his rookie season hitting .297 with 19 home runs, 64 RBI, and 20 stolen bases. And he’s already got a taste of the postseason as well.
Marvin Freeman, a former MLB pitcher, spent time with the Braves and was a part of two teams that went to the World Series. Freeman and Harris have a strong bond, as Harris played for Freeman when he was a young teenager. And Freeman knew then that Harris was a talented ball player.
“Everything he did on the field stood out to me,” Freeman said of Harris, who he thought was going to be drafted out of high school as a pitcher.
Freeman believes Harris will continue to show why he’s one of the best young talents in the game.
“I see no problem with him having another good season and maintaining those numbers,” Freeman said. “He doesn’t let success change who he is.”
Getting those games under his belt as a rookie, will certainly pay off for Harris going into his second season.
MLBbro Money Mike Harris Is Next Up
When you think of MLBbros who have dominated during their career, names like Mookie Betts, Tim Anderson, and Marcus Semien come to mind.
Don’t be surprised to hear Michael Harris II come up in that conversation in a few years. The sky’s the limit for this brother and the Atlanta Braves made the right choice in selecting him in the 2019 draft. The path to the big show is a difficult one, and many who reach it to the big leagues don’t have much success, but Harris is on a trajectory for an All-Star studded career that will be remembered for years to come. He is also very marketable and is already leaving a deep impression on aspiring MLBbros and fans of all over the world.