Not too long ago, the Braves were basking in the glory of a fairly sizable advantage in the National League East.
Now, on September 5, the boys from Atlanta are feeling the breath of the surging Phillies that are nipping at their heels at only a single game back.
But, with the rosters already expanded and all roles assigned, how should the Atlanta Braves approach the 2010 season's final 25 games?
Before we fall into the fast-filling, "JUMP OFF THE EFFIN' BANDWAGON, THIS SHIP IS SINKING FASTER THAN MARK HAMILL's CAREER AFTER STAR WARS" abyss, we have to remember these two things:
- The Braves ARE, in fact, in first place.
- This team is not the same version of the 2010 Atlanta Braves that lost nine games in a row back in late April.
Not even close to being the same team.
This is a Braves team that has become synonymous with the word "comeback" over the past couple months.
A team known league-wide for the showmanship of the likes of Conrad, McCann, and Heyward.
Granted, there is neither a "grizzled" presence from Chipper Jones in the everyday lineup nor a primed-for-a-red-hot-month Troy Glaus to re-energize this "laggy" version of the team.
But, this has proven to be a group resilient enough, even without those guys, to make a phoenix proud.
It's frightening to see the defending NL Champs so close, there's no denying that, and a 2-3 September facing par-to-subpar teams in the Mets and Phillies (as the Phillies have gone 4-1) isn't going to do much to inspire the troops.
But, with series coming up against Pittsburgh, a slumping St. Louis team (3-9 over their past 12), and the pesky Nats (as the Phillies take on Florida, New York, and Florida again)—teams they've gone 5-1, 0-4 (during the April lull), and 6-6 against—you have to be at least a little hopeful for a 6-4 or 7-3 stretch over the next week-plus.
It's not a comfortable position to be in, but there's always a little drama in September when you don't have some combination of Glavine, Maddux, or Smoltz in your rotation.
But, the team is No. 3 in team batting average and homers in the NL over the past 30 days, as well as No. 2 in OBP, and No. 2 in baseball (trailing only the Yankees) in runs scored.
Granted, 19-11 isn't indicative of those statistics, but there isn't any reason to think that the Braves can't figure out a way to match up those offensive numbers with what has been one of the better staffs in the game (including a run that has yielded a 3.22 ERA over their past 30 contests).
It's going to be a tight, back-and-forth race to the finish in the East, but the Braves are still good enough to finish their quest to earn their first playoff berth since 2005.
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