Last week, I previewed the Atlanta Braves 8-game, 7-day road trip proclaiming they had the wild card well in hand. According to me it was simply a matter of ironing out the kinks in the rotation before heading into the postseason.
Those were the days before Atlanta got swept by the Phillies and Cardinals (but they did take two from the Mets in an Irene-inspired doubleheader). Then the Braves continued their swoon with an extra-inning loss to Florida. The wild card lead is down to a slim 4-1/2 games.
According to me, the Braves would play in October as the wild card entry, but this was barring a Metsian collapse (still waiting for Webster’s to talk to me about that word, but so far, nothing).
Here’s the question: Are we seeing such a collapse? To put it simply, no. The main problem is clutch hitting, or the lack of hitting. Atlanta is 7-40 with runners in scoring position in the last five games. They were 3-20 last night. Also, in the interest of balance, Brian McCann walloped one into center field to stake Atlanta to a 4-1 lead over Florida in the sixth. (St. Louis is ahead of Pittsburgh, so maybe the lead won’t shrink further).
This might be the tonic Atlanta needs to shake off the funk and get back into a smoother operation. The schedule favors the Braves. Atlanta stays in the division the rest of the way and won’t play another team with a winning record until the final weekend when hosting Philly.
Hitting with runners in scoring position is an art. Maybe you start pressing, and lose your confidence. But McCann’s blast could be what Atlanta needs to get their confidence back.
Jair Jurrjens is no closer to returning to the rotation. He is trying to get used to throwing with a brace protecting the bone bruise on his right knee, but it’s been a slow process. It’s so slow that team officials are pessimistic that he’ll return to the line up this season. In that case, it’ll be the second straight playoffs that he’ll miss due to the knee. The news on Tommy Hanson is better. He has a bullpen session tomorrow, and if that goes well, he’ll head to the instructional league and maybe get one start in before the regular season is over.
Finally, Sports Illustrated had a story about the Braves bullpen. They throw Eric O’Flaherty in the seventh, Jonny Ventners in the eighth and Craig Kimbrel in the ninth to get easy wins.
The staff has everything except a cool nickname. I’ll open up the forum for you. If you’ve got a hot nickname, tell me about here, and we’ll start a campaign to get it to catch on. O’Flentbrel? Eonnaig? Three Amigos?
Sounds good, right? What do you have?
About the Author
Written by John Morgo
John Morgo lives in Atlanta, GA where he has done broadcast work for CNN, The Weather Channel and Encompass Digital Media. As of right now, he does Internet play-by-play for Georgia Perimeter College and Norcross High School. With GPC, he is the voice of the men's soccer, basketball, and baseball teams.