Braves Took Care of East Part, Now Comes the Hard Part

MIAMI, FLORIDA - AUGUST 17: Ozzie Albies #1 and Austin Riley #27 of the Atlanta Braves celebrate with teammates after defeating the Miami Marlins 2-0 at loanDepot park on August 17, 2021 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - AUGUST 17: Ozzie Albies #1 and Austin Riley #27 of the Atlanta Braves celebrate with teammates after defeating the Miami Marlins 2-0 at loanDepot park on August 17, 2021 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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The Atlanta Braves did exactly what they needed to do on their nine-game road trip against bad teams. But now it gets harder with the competition picking up. 

I’m not discounting anything the Atlanta Braves did in going 9-0 on their recent road trip against the Nationals, Marlins, and Orioles.

That’s exactly what they needed to do — and probably more. And it’s exactly what they weren’t doing earlier in the season that was so frustrating.

Not that you expect them to sweep every series against inferior opponents, but a lot of times they were just flat out losing those types of series.

In April they lost a four-game series to the Marlins and got shutout in a doubleheader loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

While the Toronto Blue Jays aren’t a bad team, it’s certainly not a team the Braves should have gone 0-6 against as they did in May.

In June they lost another series to the Marlins, and then right before the All-Star break when it looked like maybe they were turning a corner, they lost a series to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

So what they’ve done over the last two weeks, starting with that August 3 series against the Cardinals, has been amazing and what we’ve been waiting for all year.

In that stretch, they’ve gone 16-2 and gone from a 52-54 record and 3.5 games out of the NL East lead, to 68-56 with a 5-game lead in the division.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that dramatic of a turnaround in three-and-a-half weeks.

Braves: Now the Hard Part

The easy part is over and the Braves did what they needed to do, now they just have to maintain and survive the hard part.

Starting Monday night, they have two games with the red-hot Yankees who also have won nine in a row.

Then they play the San Francisco Giants who own the best record in the National League.

After that, they go to Los Angeles for three with the Dodgers who on paper certainly look like the best team in baseball.

And while many probably won’t consider the Rockies a tall task, they’ve been one of the best home teams in all of baseball this year. They’re 43-22 in Coors, which is where Atlanta will be for that four-game set.

Things do settle down after that with a pretty soft nine-game homestand against the Nationals, Marlins, and Rockies.

But then they go back out to the Westcoast to face the Giants, Diamondbacks, and Padres before ending the regular season at home against the Phillies and Mets.

It’s not the most impossible September schedule, but how they do through these next eight games will tell us a lot.

Have they just been beating up against bad teams, or are they ready to compete with some of the best in the game?

They have 38 games left. If they play .500 baseball the rest of the way they’ll still end up with 87 wins, which might be enough to win the division.

If you want to shoot for a safer goal, I think 92 wins probably wins you the division unless the Phillies just get red hot, which is possible with their September schedule.

To reach 92 wins they’d need to go 24-14 to finish the season. That seems like a lofty goal, but with how they’ve played recently it’s certainly possible.

If you try and map that out conservatively (no sweeps), let’s say they split with the Yankees and lose the series with the Giants and Dodgers — that’s 3-5 through their most difficult portion of the schedule left.

Then let’s say they get a four-game split against the Rockies, followed by series wins against the Nationals, Marlins, and Rockies. That brings the record up to 11-10.

We’ll say another series loss to the Giants and a four-game series win over the Diamondbacks followed by a four-game split with the Padres.

Now the record is at 17-15.

And being at home, let’s give the Braves series wins over the Phillies and Mets to finish the season giving them a record of 21-17 down the stretch. Which would give them an overall record of 89-73.

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That probably makes things a little closer than I’d like with the Phillies easy schedule in September. But that seems pretty realistic and attainable — just win the games you’re supposed to.