This is now the most critical time of the year for the 2014 Atlanta Braves. Their next 30 games could determine their fate for the remainder of the year.
Why? It’s the schedule.
April was a favorable month for Atlanta, and the team roared out of the gate to a 17-7 start, fueled by unbelievable pitching. Alas, as the schedule got more difficult from then until this day, the pitching has become merely mortal and the offensive has generally not kept up its end of the bargain. Thus 17-7 became 39-37 with a 2 game deficit in the NL East.
But now is the time for the Braves to get their ship righted and find their mojo, as they are now into the easiest stretch of scheduling imaginable over the next 30 games:
- HOUSTON (last place). 3 games (won the first)
- PHILADELPHIA (last place). 4 games
- NY METS (next to last place). 3 games
- ARIZONA (last place*). 3 games
- NY METS (next to last place). 4 games.
- CHI CUBS (last place). 3 games.
- All Star Break
- PHILADELPHIA (last place). 3 games.
- MIAMI (3rd place). 4 games.
- SAN DIEGO (next to last place). 4 games.
* – Arizona being in last place actually speaks volumes, given that the Padres are in the same division.
That’s 31 total games and 9 series’s in a row with no team currently above .500. Only one team (the Marlins) in that stretch is above 4th place. Even so, the Braves see the Fish in Atlanta – and they are a 13-21 road club right now.
Even after this easy stretch, Atlanta is kinda “eased” back into tougher competition: 3 games with the Dodgers (2nd place), followed by 3 more with San Diego (4th place) and 2 with Seattle (3rd place). That said, all three of those matchups are on the road – the last west coast swing of the year.
So it’s between now and July 28th – conveniently 3 days before the trade deadline – that the Braves will determine their season: a split (16-15 or worse) is likely to spell disaster for the remainder of the campaign. If instead they go 20-11 or better, then that’s a good indication of a team that should be able to fight to the end.