It’s Crunch Time
As I write this the Braves are riding a hot streak, just 4 1/2 games in back of the Nationals in the NL East; 5 games in the lost column. They are tied with the Pirates for the Wildcard lead with the Cardinals, Dodgers and Giants just 2.5 games back Here’s the reaming schedule for the Braves who are at the beginning of a 20 game in 20 days stretch.
The Nationals however are hotter than the Braves and show no signs of slowing down. While the remaining schedule favors the the Braves just a bit, catching the Nationals is not going to be easy.
Here’s the way the teams remaining games look right now. The Braves are playing .580 baseball and at that pace would finish 94-68.
|Braves remaining games||Home||Away|
|Sub 500 teams||17||17|
|Above 500 teams||6||10|
The Nationals are currently playing .619 ball and would finish the season 100-62.
|Nationals remaining games||Home||Away|
|Sub 500 teams||17||13|
|Above 500 teams||10||9|
Rough Road Ahead
I said the remaining schedule favors the Braves and it does, but only slightly as you can see. We play our division rivals six more times, three home and three away. We also play three of the four teams fighting for the Wildcard spot; the Dodgers three times in Atlanta. the Giants four times in San Francisco and we finish the season with three against the Pirates in Pittsburgh. The Nationals have two remaining with the Diamondbacks and play the Dodgers and Giants three times and the Cardinals seven times
Those games all effect the Wildcard as well as the Divisional races. The Wildcard possibilities are too complicated to go into. Besides, as I wrote last month, the Wildcard is not longer a ticket to the post season. The only sure way to a post season of more than one game is to win the division.
If the Nationals continue playing .619 baseball the Braves must play .720 baseball – a record of 36-15 in remaining games – to be sure of winning the division. In other words we have to sweep the Mets and not only win every remaining series, we must lose no more than one game in each series. This means continuing to beat (sweep if possible) the also-rans, reverse the historic and hard to understand winning record the Nationals have against the Braves and beat two very good teams with superb rotations that are currently tied with for the NL West title in the process.
That’s A Wrap
Watching the Braves recent run of victories it’s easy to believe that this team can do what’s needed even though the home losses to the Marlins and Astros are bigger looking back than they seemed at the time. Remembering the way Cole Hamels shut down our lineup and won with a barely recognizable Phillies team behind him should be a reality check for fans. This is going to be a fight. Tuesday begins a stretch of 17 straight games that will probably decide if we have a shot at the division title. The good news is we should miss Clayton Kershaw. The Padres however have always given us trouble and and we see them seven times sandwiching three games in D.C. and four against the Giants at AT&T Park.
The Nationals have said they will shut down Stephen Strasburg around 180 innings (he has 133 now) into the year and that might slow them down a bit. If it becomes a choice between reaching the World Series or playing golf in October I’m betting he pitches. The injury to Brian McCann’s shoulder is a major concern and the idea that they might send Tommy Hanson out just because he’s Tommy Hanson causes me some angst. The season is there for the taking. We can’t afford any serious injuries or games lost that should have been won. While beating the beaten is fun, it’s time for the Braves to put on their high socks and show everyone they can do it against the best.