Momentum is a fleeting thing: the Atlanta Braves should have “it” after key recent wins, but the next six games are vital.
Maybe you could simply say “All” of the Atlanta Braves games are vital, and that comes, of course, because of several bad losses in the season’s first half.
That said, all is not lost, but the road to a playoff berth is paved with the occasional cobblestones, and that’s why this week is important.
What’s coming in the short term are three games apiece against the Pirates and the same Miami Marlins just vanquished on Sunday. At 41-42, Atlanta truly needs to burst through this .500 barrier now and get themselves into position to threaten the Mets… because things get tough after the break.
Once teams return to play on July 16, the Braves will be at home for a pair of opponents, but here’s the problem:
- 18 games in 17 days
- START: At home vs. the Rays and Padres
- NEXT: On the road vs. the Phillies and Mets (5 games)
- FINALLY: Back to Atlanta against the Brewers
That gets us to the first of August — 2 days after the trade deadline.
The September schedule will have its own pitfalls ahead, including two West Coast road trips (the Braves haven’t been West of Milwaukee this entire season yet), but this is where the team will have to make up for ground lost from dropping winnable games in the season’s first half.
It’s hard to get a gauge on how tough these future NL West opponents (Dodgers/Padres/Giants) will be. Of this group, Atlanta has only played the Dodgers, going 2-1 against them.
- LA has blistered the Nationals 7-0 this year, but is barely over .500 vs. the other NL East teams.
- The Padres went 3-4 against the Mets, but haven’t played any other NL East foe.
- The Giants are 10-7 against the East, but haven’t faced the Mets or Braves yet.
The hope, of course, is that Alex Anthopoulos can get Atlanta some needed help in left field, the bullpen, and perhaps the bench for the stretch run. If that happens, there’s no reason that this club can’t go on a serious run to take the East and then roll into the playoffs.
If not, then it becomes more difficult since many of these other clubs will be able to bolster their own lineups, and that could spell the difference in those contests yet to be played.
In the meantime: all of that begins now in Pittsburgh tonight.
The Braves have chosen to go “all in” and take nothing for granted in the rotation. Kyle Muller was optioned back to Gwinnett, leaving a 4-man rotation with Thursday’s day off. That also gives them an extra bench player for the week.
That will have to change once the 18-in-17 slate starts on the 16th, but it’s a good move that tells us that Atlanta is not taking any chances.
Now they need to go out and win these games.