September of 2011 was an ugly month for the Atlanta Braves. Beginning the month with a seemingly locked-up Wild Card spot, the Braves proceeded to drop 18 of their last 26 games, watching the St. Louis Cardinals take the final playoff spot from them on the last day of the season.
A year later, a bad taste is still present in the mouths of Braves Country. Despite being 17 games above .500, a mark that would put Atlanta atop both the NL West and AL Central, the Braves sit 7.5 games behind the Washington Nationals. Add that to the nine wins Atlanta has posted in its last six series (spanning 20 games), and Braves fans have begun to worry.
Except this time, the Wild Card lead is just 3.5 games on St. Louis, and 5.0 on the rest of the National League. Needless to say, there is no cushion for the Braves this year.
Looking on the positive side though, the Braves are still in a very good position for a spot in October. Three games is substantial enough to provide some breathing room for the Braves, and even though Atlanta has not performed particularly well these past few weeks, neither has St. Louis, Pittsburgh, or Los Angeles.
Hopefully Atlanta only experienced a bump in the road on the way to the postseason, but even so, there are ten components (or "keys" if you will) that will need to be running on all cylinders to push the Braves over the top.