So, I returned to Upstate, NY late Monday night after a few days in Orlando for work. (By the way – to me, the beginning of fall means 60 degree temperatures and changing leaves..not 90 degree heat with 700% humidity..wow). Anyway, I kept track of the Braves enough to know they dropped 2 of 3 to the lowly Nationals. Fortunately, I got back in front of a television soon enough to see Omar Infante take advantage of Tommy Hanson’s dominate pitching with a walk-off single in the 11th.
I didn’t watch any of the games, so my only analysis comes from the box scores and comments/stories. It seems pretty simple - the offense still isn’t producing nearly enough while the pitching (outside of Tim Hudson) has still been pretty solid. Braves hitters have a .243/.314/.350 line with just 14 HR and a 3.4 runs per game average in 25 September games. Meanwhile the pitchers have a 3.65 ERA with a 1.22 WHIP (while the bullpen has put up a 2.30 ERA and 1.07 WHIP). Those numbers are skewed a bit as Tim Hudson as been lit up this month at 1-4 with a 6.10 ERA and 1.52 WHIP. With Martin Prado going down on Monday (even though his production has been off while he was battling his finger and groin issues), there will be even more pressure on the pitching staff to limit their opponents.
After the Cubs's win over the Padres last night, Atlanta has a ½ game Wild Card lead with 5 games left (all at home) to play. There are 2 against the Marlins and the 3-game regular season finale against the Phillies. The Padres have 6 games left, the Giants (leading the NL West) have 6 games left and have a ½ game ‘lead’ on the Braves, while the Rockies have all but fallen out of the race at 4.5 games back. One big thing works to the Braves advantage, schedule-wise. The Padres and Giants will end the season playing each other in a 3-game series at San Francisco. So those two teams will face the same situation that the Braves faced last week at Philadelphia: wins help their division lead (essentially making the Wild Card moot), but loses hurt both the division race the Wild Card chances. Therefore, if I’m doing my math correctly, if the Braves go at least 3-2 over the final 5 games, that all but guarantees a tie for the Wild Card at 91-71. The only exception is if both SF and SD win their next 3 games and then SD takes 2 of 3 in SF, as that would make both of those teams 92-70. (Frighteningly, there’s still the possibility of a 3-way tie at 92-70 for ATL, SF and SD). So, the Braves just need to WIN.
Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe will finish up the series against the Nationals each on short rest. Huddy needs to dig deep to reverse the performances he’s put up over the past month or so while Lowe needs to continue what he’s done this month. Victories in these two match-ups would be HUGE. It’s looking less and less like Jair Jurrjens can come back from his knee injury before the regular season ends, so right now Brandon Beachy is listed as the probable starter for Friday. The off day on Thursday means that Hanson and Hudson would be able to pitch on Saturday and Sunday on ‘regular’ rest.