Just prior to game 1 of the series with the Miami Marlins, the Braves had exactly 13 games remaining before the half. Some say the number 13 is quite unlucky, and you know how superstitious baseball players and fans can be. Some players will go on a tear, and wear the same socks, or God forbid – underwear for as long as their streak continues. Some will decide to not shave, or keep the same foul smelling, partially eaten, lucky sandwich in their locker, etc. Some of you as old as I am will remember Rico Carty. He would float five candles in the toilet and bathtub of his hotel room before every game. He argued that this ritual would help him put together five-hit games. Strange you say? Maybe, but Rico finished his career with a .299 BA, 204 homeruns, and 890 RBIs. He also won a batting title in 1970.
Despite their current position, the Atlanta Braves have had their ups-and-downs this year, but they just swept the Arizona Diamondbacks and put together an 11 run night in game 1 against the surging Miami Marlins in a small ball extravaganza. Atlanta is now seven games out in front in the NL East and beginning to play like they are hungry to keep this ride going well into the 2nd half. If how the Braves played last night against the Marlins is any indication of how they’ll play in the 13 games before the break (now 12), then 13 might not be such an unlucky number after all I’ve put together a quick review of what the Braves can expect in the next 12 games.
Miami Marlins (2 Remaining) – July 3-4
Ricky Nolasco is penciled in to pitch for the Marlins, but he may be gone by tonight. He’s not had a terrible season, but all the word is he’s on the block for a trade. Nolasco or someone else doesn’t matter much, because they’ll be pitted against Mike Minor. Minor is 8-3 with a 2.98 ERA, and only that high because of a few hiccups in some of his last outings. The Marlins shouldn’t count on those hiccups being a trend.
Henderson Alvarez is scheduled to pitch for the Marlins in game 3, and has reportedly been pitching quite well. He’ll still have to face Julio Teheran though, and Julio just keeps getting better and better with each outing. The Braves, in short, have a great chance to sweep the Marlins, particularly if they continue to play with the kind of 11-3, small ball zeal they did in game 1.
Philadelphia Phillies (3 Game Set) – July 5-7
The Phillies have struggled this season, but are always tough when we play them. The Braves took the series the last we saw the Phillies back in early April, but the Phillies are not the same team they were then. You could argue we still have an edge on them in many areas, but every series with the division rival is tough, and the Braves will have to face Cliff Lee (9-2, 2.59 ERA) who has pitched with renewed vigor this year.
Miami Marlins (Another 3 Game Set) – July 8-10
Even if the Braves manage to sweep the Marlins in the current series, the Fish are getting healthier by the day, and making roster moves that are helping them improve with each series they play. It’s been a whirlwind two years for the beleaguered club, but if they can stay on track, this second series may have a different flavor than previous and current ones. Of course, the same can be said of the Braves who just keep evolving and meeting each challenge.
Cincinnati Reds (4 Game Set) – July 11-14
The Reds have a similar record to Atlanta, and although we took the series we played with them back in May, they won’t be an easy task for Atlanta. This series is just right around the corner, but still far out enough that who’s to say what may happen with either club in the interim. The whole baseball world knows that Homer Bailey just tossed a no hitter last night against the productive Giants, and this after tossing one at the tail end of last year as well. If their rotation stays on track, the Braves could see Bailey in game 2 of that series.
My prediction? Of the 12 games left in this 13 game schedule we’re looking at, I think we’ll be a bit lucky, but I feel like we’ll mostly be just plain good! The Braves are clicking, evolving, and learning how to manage their issues. So of the 12 games left, I’ll predict we take 8 of the 12. After the way we played last night, I think we go on with that momentum to sweep the Marlins (Yes, I know I earlier predicted a 2-1 win for the Braves, but I’ve changed my mind). I think we take 2 of the 3 with the Phillies. In the 2nd series with the Marlins (who are improving), I think we take 2 of the 3. Finally, in the four game set with the Reds, I think we split. I could be wrong of course, but we’ll have to wait until just before the All-Star game on July 16th to see.
Now where did I put yesterday’s underwear?