Braves need to win series vs. Nats, and believe they can

With three-fourths of the season over, the Braves trail the division-leading Nationals by five games and have only six head-to-head matchups left, starting with Monday night’s series opener at Washington.

Yes, you could say this series is B-I-G for the Bravos.

“This is the stage that we wanted to have,” left fielder Martin Prado said. “This is the stage that all my teammates want. We’re in second place, they’re in first, and every single game, every single at-bat, every single out is going to count from now on.”

The Braves and Nationals have two of majors’ three hottest teams since early July, and the Braves will have arguably their best three starters – Tim Hudson, Paul Maholm and Kris Medlen – going against three of the Nationals’ finest in Jordan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg and Ross Detwiler, in that order.

“Definitely a big series,” Braves reliever Jonny Venters said. “Hopefully we can win a couple or win all three.”

Right fielder Jason Heyward said that just being in contention for the division title and a playoff berth of any kind in late August makes every series exciting. But facing the team atop the National League East standings, with the best record in the majors, raises the stakes and anticipation.

“We’re first and second [in the division],” Heyward said. “They’ve got a real good pitching staff, they’ve got some guys who get clutch hits, and they get runners on. They’re dangerous.”

The Nationals are similar in many ways to the Braves.

“That’s what’s fun about it,” Heyward said. “But like I said, it’s just huge to be able to say we’re in contention to still win the division and make the playoffs.”

Before the Braves lost Sunday, the majors’ best records since July 3 belonged to Atlanta (29-12), Cincinnati (29-13) and Washington (29-14).

The Nationals won their first four games against the Braves this season, but the teams split the past eight. When they last met, the Braves won two of four in a July 20-22 series at Nationals Park.

“They’ve been kind of a thorn in our side the last few years,” Venters said. “To go up there last time and win two out of four games was big. We feel like we can beat them.”

The Braves lead the wild-card standings by 3-1/2 games. There will be an additional wild card team in each league this season, so the two wild cards in each league will have a one-game playoff, with the winner advancing to a best-of-five division series and the loser going home.

At this same point in the 2011 season, the Braves were nine games behind division leader Philadelphia and led the wild-card race by four. They ended up dropping 20 of their final 30 games and losing the wild card on the last day of the season.

The Braves have a better chance to win the division that at this point a year ago, and more incentive. Winning a wild-card berth no longer earns a spot in an opening playoff series, it only gets you a one-game, winner-take-all matchup with the other wild-card team from your league.

“We can close the gap [this week at Washington],” Prado said. “Or go the wrong way. In our minds, we’re just going to go there and play the same game we’ve been playing all year. We all know what Washington can do. They can pitch, they can score runs, they can play defense. At the same time, we feel we can do the same thing. We split a four-game series there. And the way our rotation is, it’s looking pretty good.”

Uggla’s extreme season

Dan Uggla leads the NL in walks (75) and was tied for the league lead in strikeouts (137) before Sunday. He was on pace for a career-high 185 strikeouts, which would obliterate the franchise record of 156 he set last season. No other Brave has ever struck out 150 times.

Uggla was also on pace for 101 walks, nine more than his career high set in 2009 with Florida. But he’s hitting just .210 with 15 home runs, after hitting a career-low .233 with 36 homers in his first season with the Braves. He went 0-for-9 with three walks in the weekend Dodgers series.

He hit .263 over five seasons with the Marlins, including a career-best .287 with an .877 OPS in in 2010, before the Braves traded for him in November 2010 and signed him to a five-year, $62 million extension. Uggla had a career-low .764 OPS in 2011 and is at .719 this season.

He’s on pace for 20 home runs, after hitting at least 31 in each of the past five seasons. His career low was 27 as a rookie in 2006.

Lot of whiffs

Atlanta hitters ranked sixth in the NL with 946 strikeouts before Sunday, but had three of the highest eight individual totals in Uggla (137, tied with Washington’s Danny Espinosa for first), Heyward (122) and Michael Bourn (119).

41 comments Add your comment

lanier

August 19th, 2012
7:30 pm

I was at the game and their bats looked dead I dont know why, but they arnt gonna pass the Nats this year

Brave New World

August 19th, 2012
7:39 pm

Let’s see how things look after 162 games. GO BRAVES!

eskippy

August 19th, 2012
7:45 pm

I hope the hitting coaches work with Uggla like they did Heyward in the upcoming off season.

james

August 19th, 2012
8:12 pm

6 man rotation with ACE pitchers gives Braves a great chance. When ACE’s get tired. Kimbrell & Venters will seal the deal. Run support and were golden.

james

August 19th, 2012
8:13 pm

The most crucial match up between the Expos/Nationals ever

BravesfaninWis

August 19th, 2012
8:27 pm

I glad that they have that mentality going into this series, but if history comes knocking again, the Braves will probably be swept and their chances at winning the division will be all but over.

Then, they will get the wild card spot, then lose to the other wild card team and go home. That seems to be the way of the Braves over the past 5-6 years. They haven’t won a must win series in a very long time, so I am not expecting them to do it here either. They have themselves to blame for the fans not having faith in them anymore, they are the ones that talk big then choke, what do they expect?

Amber Girl

August 19th, 2012
8:31 pm

@Mr BravesfaninWis You are funny. But give them a chance. You sound like a Nat fan. I swat knats

Don

August 19th, 2012
8:32 pm

As long as FG sticks with the lineup that has 4 easy outs – no way we can score runs to keep up with the Nationals or anyone else with a winning record.

GaryinBham

August 19th, 2012
9:11 pm

It’s starting to get late. 5 games isn’t impossible, but it’s getting late. Anything less than a sweep leaves us at least four out. Need all three to get back in it, and, truthfully, not sure we have it in us.

Bravo Fan

August 19th, 2012
9:47 pm

I’m pretty sure we don’t have it in us. Prado: “every single out is going to count from now on”. Like it didn’t before?? Venters: “Hopefully, we can win a couple…” How ’bout all three, dude? Where’s the fire? The urgency? This team is playing scared on offense. Painfully scared! Truth be known, I doubt if any player on this team (and their manager) believe that the Braves can win this series. Chipper was quoted as saying, speaking of the hitters, “you can see it in their eyes”. I assume what he saw was fear. Quite an indictment there from someone who actually knows what’s going on.

Bill in VA

August 19th, 2012
9:48 pm

I’ll trade you a few of Fredi’s sound bytes for a few line drive singles with RISP!!

Bill in VA

August 19th, 2012
9:49 pm

That was a great inning Minor, clamping down on them, with the bases loaded! Impressive!

TuffShhhtuff

August 19th, 2012
10:00 pm

Heard on ESPN tonight, and honestly the guy who said it, was chuckling lightly(about what I don’t know) that the Braves batting average for the last two games is .130 Sounds like Ugglaitis is contagious and all the Braves now have it. Speaking of chuckling, I did quite a bit of that while reading this article. Are you seriously kidding me? Some of the convoluted thought processes are exactly why the Braves are where they are now. Sounds like to some of them the season is just now starting. Guess it’s that “FG mentality”.

Largo

August 19th, 2012
10:26 pm

I doubt that any of the braves players think they can win the series against the Nats. If they do, they’re dreaming. We don’t have the pitching to stop them nor the offense to beat them.

JRoswell

August 19th, 2012
10:29 pm

The Nationals have a lot more home games in the remaining schedule that the Braves do. Unless the Nationals have a bad streak, the Braves can play 700 ball and not catch up. So the chances are low.

The series is important. The Braves need to reduce the lead and they need to demonstrate that they can win a series from a good team.

lee maye

August 19th, 2012
10:29 pm

Good news. Cory Gearin has pitched 2 innings at Gwinnett in the last 3 days, and struck out 3 in each inning. Bad news: He doesn’t pitch for the Braves anymore. 2 perfect innings with 6 K’s. Sounds like he should have stayed.

Constanza needs to be brought up and share LF with Reed Johnson. Move Prado to 2nd. Won’t happen though. Danny “swinging at 3-0″ is a hot hitter right now. .210 enough said. And, if you remember, 1 of those hits in August, should have been an error and was originally scored one. Kind scorekeeper.

Paul In Richmond.

August 19th, 2012
10:38 pm

Why do the Braves always seem to take the month of April off and then start counting the games as important only AFTER the season begins to wind down????

Nevada Roy

August 20th, 2012
1:27 am

For the series – Sit Uggla (BA 2.10), Prado at 2B and Johnson (BA 3.02) in LF.

myke hawk

August 20th, 2012
2:56 am

need a sweep to make noise in the division race.. 2 of 3 will bring them back to 4 games out.. which is where they were at the AS break….32 game since the AS break.. and havent gained crap

pdt

August 20th, 2012
6:26 am

Bench Uggla for the rest of the season and then get rid of him. Bench McCann, too. Obviously he’s hurt and he can’t hit. Make Ross the go-to guy for the rest of the season and maybe we have a chance.

DaveinNEPA

August 20th, 2012
7:51 am

Winning 2 out of 3 isn’t going to accomplish anything. They need to sweep this series if they have any designs on winning the division.

That said, Uggla and McCann need to either step up or step off. We can’t afford to keep carrying those two guys in the lineup if they’re not going to hit any better than they have been.

Hock a Homer

August 20th, 2012
8:37 am

I think the Braves have already peaked for the year. I just hope they got enough left to make the wild card. No way will they catch the Nats.
Pitching is ok but the bats better wake up or we are finished. Uggla is a liability.Not consistant. McCaNN is hurt. He needs to keep his butt on the bench until he heals. What good does he do the Braves when he is hurting.Ross can handle the job.Uggla s problem at the plate is mental. Bench him and let him think about what he doing for a week or so.Weve got to win games down the stretch.

Bobbi Cox

August 20th, 2012
9:45 am

I was speaking to a co-worker this morning about the braves attitude towards winning. We both agreed that they still have that Bobby Cox mentality of just “go out and compete”. Teams that win championships have the belief that they are the better team and will win unlike the braves who just want to compete. Their record against better teams reflect upon this attitude of “we just happy to be here and compete”. Until the organization chance this attitude at all levels, then we can expect the same type of performance they gave at the end of the season last year.

Peter R.

August 20th, 2012
9:53 am

Los Bravos are about to have train run on ‘em. They need a sweep, let’s not kid ourselves. Fuggly our lineup’s black-hole has done an extreme amount of damage. He affords no one any sort of protection. If this team stalls out, then the blame is all on him. We should organize us a lynch mob. He looked dreadful yesterday.

Clydesdale

August 20th, 2012
9:53 am

Add that Uggla is top 5 in MLB with 2-out RBI and 1st in MLB is in reach. Very interesting sta line will probably follow his career. It never effects his defense which is so much better than you would guess by looking at him.

romedawg

August 20th, 2012
9:59 am

The higher wild card team (if they had a big lead) will be able to rest their best starting pitcher for the one game playoff and the lower wild card team may not be able to do that because it may be a struggle for them just to get to the game. I still think this wild card playoff game is rediculous.

CCA

August 20th, 2012
10:17 am

Let Tim Hudson play left field and Prado at second base. At least Hudson can hit a fly ball or a single and score a run. Uggla is a strikeout. Jason Heyward needs to step forward and be the club house leader, he has more hustle and energy than any of the other people in this organization. He at least puts pressure on himself to perform and is irate at himself when he does not. This attitude is needed on this team instead of FG o’well attitude.

Pippa's hiney

August 20th, 2012
10:29 am

One way or the other, this series will answer a lot of questions.

ChopMeister

August 20th, 2012
10:43 am

Great point on Whiffs. If the Braves could biggest Whiff offenders could cut down as little as a quarter of their SOs this team would be very difficult to beat. Uggla is on another SO planet. I dont think he will ever be able to have a season with less than 150 SOs. But as great as Bourne is at everything else his Whiff total is the only thing that really pulls him back towards the middle of the pack for lead off men. Ichiro has 45 Whiffs this year (albeit he is one of the greatest contact hitters to ever play bball.)
Freeman and Heyward are young. The SOs will drop for them as their experience increases.
Go Braves!

Douglas Bracey

August 20th, 2012
10:54 am

Braves have two many left-handed batters. They swing at the first pitch instead of taking a few, including chipper jones and freddie freeman. Mccann is washed up. they have to many automatic outs. they will be lucky to win 1 game in dc

jharber

August 20th, 2012
11:04 am

Right handed bats sit while Freddi g”s boy strikes out time after time.

jharber

August 20th, 2012
11:08 am

Bourne-Prado-Heyward-Chipper-Johnson-Freeman-Ross-Janish-Pitcher, I think better lineup facing lefties.

northbeach Scott

August 20th, 2012
11:13 am

I must say after the terrific come from behind, walk-off win over the Dodgers on Friday, it is stunning that the Braves came out flat for the last two losses.

I think the Dodgers really showed some character by winning two after that difficult loss, especially while their skipper served a two game suspension. I would not want to face these guys in the playoffs as the Braves will have no chance. Just think we did not even face their best pitcher in Kershaw.

Here it comes

August 20th, 2012
1:16 pm

Uggla can’t play in this series. He just can’t. We need to close all of the offensive holes we can! He seems to be a great teammate and I admire the way he battles through his struggles. But, he can’t hit!
Maybe in the offseason he can back off of the bulk some. It helped Heyward and saved Frenchy’s career.

TuffShhhtuff

August 20th, 2012
1:36 pm

Asinine comments from the article which shows the true mindset of the Braves. I would have included some from Fredi G as he is usually good for two or three but he had no quotes in this article. His convoluted thought process is really rather alarming and is part of the problem, not the solution Here goes: 1. Martin Prado–”Every single game, every single at bat, every single out is going to count from now on.”(Surprised at MP really, he is usually not that naive) 2. DOB– “The Nationals are similar in many ways to the Braves”. (Oh really, could have fooled me!) 3. Johnny Venters– “To go up there last time and win two out of 4 games was big.”(did he really think about that before he said it? A split in a 4 game series is a wash out, they just cancel out, may as well have not even played them!) 4. Martin Prado(again?wow!)— “We’re just going to go there and play the same game we’ve been playing all year.” (please don’t, especially the last two!)

SMOLTZ29

August 20th, 2012
1:52 pm

B-Mac in August is hitting a sterling .103 at 4-39 with 1 rbi! Second year in a row that injuries in August have decimated his offensive game. MERCY

Mister Frisky

August 20th, 2012
2:20 pm

DOB,Didnt know you were into Redd Kross.Those guys have been around the LA Scene for more than 30 years.You have quite the range in your love of music,much appreciated.

VinceVanGo

August 20th, 2012
2:25 pm

I’ve heard that Fredi is letting the bat boy make out the lineup card and then he is signing it. I’m starting to believe that it’s true. Either way McCann’s butt shouldn’t be on the bench, it should be on the DL, and then traded after the season. He’s had a good but short career, which does sometimes happen to catchers and out of shape players. He was at the fore front of last years collapse and seems intent at leading another one this year. Frank & Fredi need to stop babying the home town boys(McCann, Heyward, and like Francour when he was here) and make them produce or send them packing(like Francour). At least Frank Wren has a pair, I don’t think Fredi has found his yet.

alanfalcon

August 20th, 2012
3:38 pm

This is the Braves do or die series, if they sweep then we will win the division, if we get swept or lose 2 of 3 we will lose the division and place the season in a position to fold as we did last year.

No if, an’s, butts or or’s,its time to put up or shut up, (Dan and Bryan) this includes you !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Best of luck.

Oh'man

August 20th, 2012
5:13 pm

Seriously, why is Simmons taking so long to recover? I broke three of my toes and it only took me a week to recover, after that week I didn’t feel a thing and to top it off I wasn’t even in a case because I couldn’t afford it! Simmons is in a case, has doctors helping him rehab and two months are gone and he is still injured? Wtf?

Lobosolo

August 20th, 2012
7:14 pm

Stupidest “fans” in the majors…

Add your comment