The Atlanta Braves can do little wrong at the moment, The biggest obstacle they had remaining on their schedule, a lengthy west coast road trip that culminated with four games at Dodger Stadium, ended with the Braves going 8-2 on the trip and solidifying their status as the best team in baseball.
As things stand right now, the Braves sit at 90-46, have all but locked up the division, and are heavy favorites to have home field advantage throughout the 2023 playoffs. However, one thing that will likely not be as easy, but remains well within reach, is setting the franchise record for wins in the regular season. The current record is held by the 1998 Braves who won 106 games. We aren't going to talk about what happened in the playoffs that year.
To set a new franchise record, the Braves are going to have to go 17-9 the rest of the season. That is going to be tough, but their remaining schedule isn't particularly daunting with multiple series against the bottom dwelling Nationals as well as matchups against the Cardinals and Pirates on the way.
However, there are going to be some significant obstacles to get there despite the relatively easy schedule that could derail the team's hopes of setting a new franchise record.
The Braves may just clinch too early
One potential pitfall of the Braves utterly dominating this season is that there is a better than average chance that we could see the Braves resting their regulars over the last couple weeks of the season. As good as the Braves are playing, it has been a long season and giving guys the chance to be a tad fresher and healthier when the playoffs arrive via days off has a lot of merit. This is particularly true of the pitching staff as Charlie Morton is not a young man and several of the Braves' bullpen arms have been used heavily this season and could use a little downtime so they can be leaned on in the postseason.
The good news on that front is that the Braves have never historically been a team to rest guys aggressively. They will build in an extra day of rest here and there for starters and avoid using tired bullpen arms, but it is very rare to see them run out white flag lineups full of bench guys. One thing is certain: it is going to be hard to keep Ronald Acuna Jr. out of the lineup as he is very motivated to play 162 this year especially in his pursuit of some lofty milestones.
The Braves have some desperate, hungry teams left on their schedule
There are certainly some series left on the Braves' schedule that, on paper, should be easy for them to handle. However, Atlanta also has some teams left that are fighting for their playoff lives and that could make them tough to handle down the stretch.
The Braves have seven games left against the Phillies who always play the Braves tough, seem to be rounding into form lately, and who want very much to keep their status as the top wild card team in the National League. Atlanta also plays the Cubs towards the end of September and Chicago is likely to be fighting to retain their status as a wild card team. The Marlins struggles against the Braves are well-documented at this point, but they are in a tie for the last wild card spot, are hungry, and have the pitching to give the Braves fits.
The fifth spot in the Braves rotation remains in flux
When the Braves have to basically win 2/3 of their remaining games to set the franchise record, they would certainly prefer to have some more answers for the final spot in their rotation than they do. Unfortunately, it is more likely that the Braves will continue to experiment down the stretch with a number of guys that is going to lead to some losses that will hurt Atlanta's chances of getting there.
From Michael Soroka, Jared Shuster, Darius Vines, Dylan Dodd, AJ Smith-Shawver, and Allan Winans, the Braves clearly don't know exactly who they prefer from the group and we could see several of them get opportunities. On top of that, the potential return of Kyle Wright adds another variable to things that is hard to predict. If Wright returns and looks like the 2022 version of himself, that would be a big boost. If he is rusty and the Braves commit to letting him knock that rust off the rest of the season, the picture gets a whole lot murkier.
Even if the Braves don't win more than 106 games this season, Braves fans should still be ecstatic. While the postseason will determine how fans view the 2023 season, this is still a Braves squad that should go down as one of the best in franchise history and certainly the most fun.