Jul 15, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; National League pitcher Clayton Kershaw (22) of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws a pitch in the second inning during the 2014 MLB All Star Game at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Braves' Schedule Now Turns South

The easy part is over.  Now the real test begins.

The Atlanta Braves have stumbled out of the All-Star break with a 6-5 record.  Combining that with a stretch that began with the June 24-26 Houston series, and that was 31 games against teams with losing records – all third place or worse.  It was the ‘softest’ scheduling section of the season.

They went 20-11.

Normally, 20-11 is a pretty good run.  It’s a .645 win percentage vs. teams now at a combined .444.  So that’s… good?

When I originally looked forward to this part of the season, I had hoped they would go at least… yep… 20-11.

 

Shoulda/Coulda Been Better

Losing to Cole Hamels isn’t surprising, but losing that July 19 by a 2-1 score was frustrating – that could have been a good win.  Two of the recent losses vs. the Marlins could have been avoided:  the 10 inning 3-1 game and the 3-2 affair in which Kimbrel took the loss.  Those are exactly the kinds of games the Braves cannot afford to give away.

 

Interestingly enough, the Nationals are probably saying the same thing to themselves after totally blowing a 6-0 lead to the Marlins  with 7 outs to go in the game.   Thankyouverymuch!

 

Still, the Braves had a chance to gain some ground on Washington – and instead find themselves in second place in the division – now a half-game behind.  For their part, the Nationals also went 20-11 in their past 31 games (against much better competition) and are 6-4 since the break.

 

Now: The Gauntlet

Starting tonight, Atlanta’s next month is pretty nasty.  Let’s start with a cross-country flight

  • The Dodgers (3) – at Chavez Ravine.  Facing Josh Beckett, Zack Greinke, and Clayton Kershaw.  If you want to think ahead to the playoffs, that’s probably the trio you’ll see in October. And if you’re in the LA area, check out barrystickets.com for Dodger July giveaways
  • The Padres (3) – A slight respite, though this happens back in San Diego where they play .500 ball.
  • Seattle (2) – the long West Coast road trip concludes with 2 games in the Pacific Northwest.

Billy Hamilton (6). Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

But it gets even better back home…

  • The resurgent Nationals (3)
  • The Dodgers again (4).  The good news?  They might miss Kershaw this time around.
  • Oakland (3).  Yep – the best team in baseball is in town.

And finally, back on the road…

  • Pirates (3)
  • Reds (4)

No telling where these two teams will be sitting by then.  Right now the Pirates are on the upswing and Cincinnati is floundering.  Huh, Billy Hamilton only has a .268 OBA in July.  Wonder if that’s part of their issues.  Wonder how that might impact… oh, ROY considerations perhaps?

 

Future Scope

So there it is:  25 games that could make or break this team – ending on Sunday, August 24th.  Frank Wren probably wishes that this slate of games were already done.  It would be a lot easier to work his trade magic from a position of confidence, were this schedule already in the rear view mirror.  His team’s 58-48 record would look a lot better, too.

If Atlanta can at least tread water through this section – going 13-12 or 12-13 – then they should be in a reasonable position for the September stretch run.  The schedule then is much easier.  A lot of divisional foes, plus the Texas Rangers and Pittsburgh Pirates.  So a September Rally is certainly possible.

We’ve just gotta root the Braves through a tough August!

 

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