“Barring a sweep at the hands of Albert Pujols and the Cardinals (who are 7.5 back in the wild card chase), the Braves will all but wrap up their formal invitation to the post-season dance this year.” -Marcus Young, 09/09/11
That’s what I said before the Cardinals series and the rest is history. Oops. Because as we know by now, the Braves DID in fact get swept by Pujols and the red-hot Cardinals - and have been struggling to win games ever since.
Losing crucial series’ to teams that are already planning Fall vacations such as the Dodgers, Mets, and Marlins this month (along with getting swept by Philadelphia and St. Louis) have caused the Braves to cough up a seemingly insurmountable double digit wild card lead. Should the Cards polish off yet another sweep of the Mets today (up 6-2 in the 9th), the wild card lead for the Bravos will be down to 1 skinny game.
As I said before, this isn’t the same Braves team that built that big lead, and what’s left of it is hanging on by their fingernails. I don’t care what O’Flaherty, Venters or Kimbrel have been saying, they have been overused and must be fatigued. Giving up runs, and especially home-runs in Kimbrel’s case, at a rapid pace all of a sudden just isn’t their style. They’re gonna need the offense to pick them up down the stretch, no question.
Seeing announcements on the Braves website such as “Postseason Tickets ON SALE NOW!” and “Jair Jurrjens Could Be Ready To Go in the Second Round” just makes things even more painful. Don’t tell me about Atlanta’s starting rotation injuries. The Cardinals lost Cy Young favorite Adam Wainwright for the entire season, and traded away their stud five-tool centerfielder (Colby Rasmus) at the deadline because of managerial disputes, but they fought through it. Now, of course you could say, “well they had time to prepare for those absences and replace those guys”, but it’s not like the Braves have been going up against the Yankees and Tigers this month. The Gwinnett Braves should be enough to dispose of the Marlins (without Josh Johnson and Hanley Ramirez) and the Mets (without Johan Santana for the year).
All of the Braves starting lineup, including the oft-injured Chipper Jones, have been playing for weeks now. We know Derek Lowe stinks and the rookie starters have been doing a formidable job so there are really no excuses other than good old fashioned choking. It’s time for everyone on the roster, from starters to position players, to bullpen guys, to coaches, to mascots, to step it up and play with some reckless abandon. We don’t want to see the excellent Michael Bourn trade, Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrel’s rookie of the year campaigns, Dan Uggla’s historic hit streak, and Chipper’s bounceback from an ACL tear go by the wayside in 2011.
If you ask anyone outside of Atlanta, they would probably rather see the likes of Pujols, Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman and Chris Carpenter battling the Phillies in the first round (featuring arguably the 2 best fan bases in the National League) with the Brewers and Diamondbacks in the other side of the bracket, than a down-on-their-luck Braves team lacking confidence and energy. But forget what everyone else wants to see!
As my colleague John Morgo pointed out, the remaining schedule for the Cardinals might as well been produced in a bakery because it’s cream puff city (Cubs and Astros). The Braves on the other hand face a Nationals team they can never seem to figure out (starting with young phenom Stephen Strasburg) and close out with a Phillies team that would certainly take pleasure in burying their main rival’s postseason hopes on their home field, even while resting some starters (just like they almost did last season).
Anything can happen once the season restarts in October. Hopefully “Huddy” will be up for the challenge tomorrow night to outduel Strasburg (who may still be on a limited pitch count after returning from Tommy John surgery late in the season). Hopefully the offense will give him more than the 1 run of support he got last time out when he eked out a 1-0 victory. Hopefully that 1991 magic dust will be swirling in the air next week! Hmmm, that’s a lot of hope.
Rally caps on Braves fans, it’s desperation time!
About the Author
Written by Marcus Young
"A lotta room in right-center, if he hits one there we can dance in the streets. The 2-1. Swung, line drive left field! One run is in! Here comes Bream! Here's the throw to the plate! He is...SAFE! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win!...Braves win!" The late great Skip Caray with my favorite sports call of all time as a lumbering Sid Bream was able to beat Barry Bonds' three-hopper to the plate by an eyelash in the old Atlanta Fulton County Stadium to secure the Atlanta Braves' miraculous back-to-back World Series trips in 1991 and 1992. I grew up in Atlanta, I am still a die hard Braves, Falcons, and Hawks fan and am hungry for another championship to put alongside that lonely 1995 World Series trophy! I graduated from Wake Forest University in 2002 and am back living in Hot-lanta now. Go Deacs and Go Dawgs! My favorite athletes are John Smoltz, Magic Johnson, and Brett Favre. Braves are on a mission in 2011 in the 20th anniversary of that magical 1991 season!