Dodger Series Gives Atlanta Braves an Opportunity to Shine
After beating the San Diego Padres decisively for the second straight game, the Atlanta Braves filed into a bus and chugged north to take on a much more formidable opponent: the 5 freeway. During rush hour, no less. Having lived in Los Angeles for ten years, and spending what seems like seven of it in traffic, believe me when I warn you: don’t be surprised if your Braves look a bit tetchy tomorrow when they take the field at Chavez Ravine.
With the wild card log jam just as congested as Los Angeles traffic, and the Phillies barely visible with high powered binoculars, the weekend series against the best team in the NL could easily break the 2009 Braves’ back once and for all. Or, they could step up and show the league that, unlike the middling product of the past three years, they are a team to once again be reckoned with. There are some reasons for optimism: Derek Lowe has pitched some gems at Dodger Stadium over the years; Jair Jurrjens has never been shelled back to back by the same team, and Adam LaRoche’s bat is evidently happy to be back with the Braves. The series may provide us, actually, with a barometer of how realistic their playoff chances truly are.
If they get swept–it’s over. They’d most likely be 8 or 9 games behind Philly with 50 to play and at least 7 behind someone in the wild card race. Barring an unprecedented final stretch, it would be near impossible.
If they win one of four, there would be no shame; we will all still tune in for the rest of August, but they would have lost 5 out of 7 games against a likely playoff opponent, and fallen even deeper into the wild card swamp.
If they win two, well, it’s business as usual. The math doesn’t change much and we can only hope they can somehow continue their head to head domination of the Phillies the rest of the way, and finally figure out what the rest of the league already seems to know: how to beat the Nationals.
If they win three, the Braves leave town on a high note (thankfuly much higher than a bus on the 5 freeway) having just taken two series on the road, and will have reason to feel cautiously hopeful about their chances the rest of the way.
If they sweep the Dodgers, they will win the National League East Title. Yes, I said it. They would most likely be ahead of the Marlins, within 5 games or less of the Phillies, and would be equipped with a newfound swagger for having just embarassed the National League’s best team on their own turf. The league would take notice, but more importantly, the Braves would, too. A team that has searched for a comfortable identity fit all year will have found it and, I believe, would play like a consumate winner into September. This scenario is most unlikely, mind you, but when you have a starting 5 as good as the Braves, you never know.
Let’s just hope the starting 5 is off the 5 at this moment, and resting soundly.