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Can the Braves Hang On?

Posted By John Morgo On Sep 20 2011 @ 9:22 pm In Atlanta Braves | 3 Comments

The wild card lead, which was as high as eight, is now down to a slim two-and-a-half games. As of right now, the Braves enjoy a 4-0 lead over the Florida Marlins, while the Cards are down 4-0 to the Mets. If these results hold, the lead gets pushed to over three. That’s an important number, and I’ll explain why, but first, you have to examine the remaining schedule.

The Braves have the Nats and Phils while the Cards draw the Cubs and Astros. If you’re a Cardinal fan, you have to like that slate. You’re also a fan of this statistic. Atlanta is 7-12 this month. The Cardinals are 12-5. Since the lead is over three, the Cards can’t catch Atlanta with just one series, they need both. (Each team will have one game left with the Fish and Mets, respectively, so it could slide back under three games, or go above four games, but for our purposes, we’ll keep at three.)

For Atlanta, that makes the Nationals series crucial. Atlanta was swept by Philly earlier in the month. Maybe the Phils will coast to the postseason and not do anything stupid, and Atlanta can steal a win. Maybe the Cubs and Astros will play inspired baseball and try to play the spoiler.

Who knows? I do know this. I want the wild card sown up before that Philadelphia series. I’ll breathe a lot easier if I don’t have to worry about taking one from them.

Essentially, Atlanta has to win the Series with the Nats, then take the next two from Florida. To look at it another way, the Braves must tie or beat the Cards record these next four days.

As for this game, it’s played at the cavernous Sun Life Stadium, which reminds me of the old Fulton County Stadium in the 1980′s with its’ paucity of fans. I was at the Georgia Dome to announce a high school football series this weekend. I’m pretty sure the final game will outdraw the attendance for tonight’s contest.

Back to the game. Atlanta has home runs from Alex Gonzalez and Freddie Freeman. It’s Freddie’s 20th HR on the season, and Alex’s 15th of the year. However, Alex just took himself out the game and the preliminary indication is his back is acting up.

As for that imposing bullpen? It’s taking some lumps. Craig Kimbrel’s ERA in the last four games is nearly 8 –  and before Jonny Ventners’ strong outing on Sunday, his ERA was almost six in a two-week stretch. The early thought is it might be overwork. If Atlanta can’t give them a little rest during this pivotal series with Washington, it might come down to the Phillies next week. That will not help my peace of mind.

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