This is what happens when you dig a hole in June.
Over the last the seven days, the Braves have two wins, four losses and an off day. That doesn’t qualify as a major slide. But the results illustrate how difficult of a position they’ve put themselves in. Philadelphia has blown open an eight-game lead in the National League East. The Phillies also just added Cy Young winner Cliff Lee to the starting rotation in a trade with Cleveland.
I guess getting a Cy Young winner instead of Roy Halladay qualifies as a consolation prize. Folks, that ship has sailed.
The wild-card race is almost as daunting. The Braves are only four games back of wild-card leader San Francisco. That wouldn’t be a big problem if the Giants were in first and the Braves were in second. But it’s not that simple.
Before losing four of their last six — including the first two games of a series to Florida, one of the teams they’re chasing — the Braves were tied for third, three games back of then-leader Colorado. Now in dropping four games back of San Francisco, which in itself is no big deal, they’re tied for fifth (and sixth) place. Milwaukee is only a game behind them in seventh.
Actually, the Braves are closer in the wild-card standings to the eighth-place Mets (two games) than they are the Giants (four). We all thought the Mets were dead. So where does that put the Braves?
That’s the difficult thing about wild-card races — it’s often not the number of games behind in the standings that matters as much as the number of teams you’re battling. You can’t expect/project/hope every other team loses because they’re all playing each others. There’s no exact formula. But in a sense, a four-game deficit in a six-to-eight team pack seems almost as bad as an eight-game deficit in second place.
What this all means now is what it meant before: The Braves have to do something very unlikely to make the playoffs. They need to sweep some series. They also can’t afford to lose any ground — and actually need to gain — despite an upcoming stretch of the schedule, when they play Los Angeles and Philadelphia 10 times in 15 games. The Dodgers have the best record in baseball. The Phillies might be in that position before long — they’ve won 19 of their last 23.
The numbers are the numbers. But right now the National League wild-card winner is projected to win 88 games. The Braves are 51-50, which means they would need to go 37-24 the rest of the season. That’s .607 baseball. It’s not like that can’t be done, given the way they’ve mostly played over the past month. But have another 2-4 week and watch how harder things get.
Sorry. Didn’t mean to ruin your morning.