It has been five years since the Atlanta Braves took a champagne shower in celebration of making it to postseason play. With an 8-7 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies and a little help from the San Francisco Giants, the Braves wrapped up the wild card on Sunday.
After the team completed its nail-biting victory over the Phillies, it gathered in the clubhouse to anxiously await the outcome of the final game between the San Diego Padres and the San Francisco Giants. The final day of the 2010 season began with the Atlanta Braves and the San Diego Padres tied for the wild card. The Braves seemed to have a secure hold on the wild card going into the final weekend of play; however, two losses by the Braves and two victories by the Padres on Friday and Saturday knotted the two teams together with the same record.
Thankfully, everything worked out for the Braves as they had hoped. Tim Hudson pitched very well to keep the Philadelphia batters off the bases. On the other page, errors continue to hurt Atlanta in more ways than one.
With postseason play just days away, what keys to success will the Braves need to muster in order to make it to the World Series? Manager Bobby Cox has told the team to win for themselves and not for him, but every baseball fan in America knows that the Braves want to win it for Bobby.
For most of the season, the bats of Braves' hitters were on fire. Unfortunately, those bats flamed out for the most part during the month of September. Fortunately, the Braves hitters did just enough, at just the right times, in order to help Atlanta make it to postseason play.
One key factor to the Braves success or failure during the 2010 postseason will be whether or not the boys are able to get hits with runners in scoring position. Striking out from time to time with no men on base will probably not get the Braves beat. On the opposite hand, Atlanta cannot expect to have much success if they are unable to hit with men on base and in scoring position.
Many times during the 2010 season, the Braves had a lot of success at the plate with two outs. They will need to find a little of this magic and take it with them to the postseason if they expect to get very far.
Good, timely hitting wins baseball games. If the Atlanta Braves want to send Bobby Cox out as a winner of a World Series, they must put the ball into play with runners in scoring position. When the Braves have a runner on third with one out or less, they must put the ball in play somewhere in order to bring the man home. Stranding runners on second or third with one out or less is a crime the current Braves team cannot afford to commit.
Each run scored in the postseason will be a valuable commodity. The teams that prevail in 2010 postseason play will be the teams that do the best job of hitting with runners in scoring position. The Atlanta Braves can be one of those teams...but will they?
To be successful in postseason play, the Atlanta Braves must cease from making so many untimely errors. Within the past month, the untimely errors committed by Braves' players may have cost them a chance to make a run at the division title. Errors lead to unearned runs, and unearned runs lead to defeat.
Although the entire team has been guilty of committing very untimely errors, fan favorite, Brooks Conrad, has really had a tough time over the past week. After committing far too many errors at third base over the past 10 days, manager Bobby Cox made a decision to move Conrad to second base and Omar Infante to third base for the final game of the season. Did the move work? Some would say yes, and some would say no. Although the Braves managed to win the final game of the season, both Conrad and Infante were guilty of committing errors. Still, I expect to see Infante at third and Conrad at second when the Braves take the field against the Giants on Thursday.
If the boys continue to make errors at the rate they have made them lately, the Braves will make a quick exit from postseason play. The bottom line is simple. The errors must cease.
The starting pitching for the Atlanta Braves has been exceptionally good all year long. On the other side of the fence, the relief pitching, at times, has not been exceptionally good. If the Atlanta Braves wish to make it to the World Series, the relief pitchers will need to bring their "A" game every single night.
At times, Atlanta relievers have been lights out. At other times, they have not been able to get the ball over the plate. Even worse, there have been times when opposing teams hammered Atlanta relief pitching, and that after being shut down all night by the starter. It is a bitter pill for a starting pitcher to swallow.
When a starting pitcher throws a two-hit shutout for seven innings, he wants the relief pitchers to come in and shut the other team down. That is what it's going to take for the Atlanta Braves to be successful in 2010 postseason play.
On paper, the Atlanta Braves do not have the best baseball team. Baseball statistics for the past 30 days would easily say that the Philadelphia Phillies are the team to beat. Regardless as to what the statistics say, any team is capable of beating any team at any time.
With good, timely hitting, error-free defense, and outstanding pitching, the Atlanta Braves are very capable of going as far as they want to go. The 2003 Florida Marlins won the wild card that year and surprised everyone by beating the Cubs, who were highly favored to win the National League.
The 2010 Atlanta Braves are a very close knit team. The unity and the bond between the players is special. No team or manager deserves a World Series more than the Atlanta Braves and Bobby Cox. To see them celebrate a World Championship would be very special. Can they? Yes they can!