As much as last season was filled with positive memories for the Braves, their preference was that this year not turn into a repeat.
They didn’t want to have to scramble again to make it in as a wild card. They didn’t want their postseason chances to come down to the final series of the regular season again. They didn’t want to be in a position of having to beat Philadelphia, the best team in baseball, in game No. 162 to make the playoffs. But it may come to that.
The Braves lost at Florida 6-5 Monday night. This time, Omar Infante hit a two-run homer off suddenly fallible closer Craig Kimbrel, as the Braves lost for the eighth time in 11 games. Their National League wild card lead is down to 2½ games lead over St. Louis and 3½ over San Francisco — neither of whom are falling apart like Atlanta (numbers below).
Much like last season, the Braves are dropping engine parts down the stretch and all of those postseason ticket ads that have been running on radio and television seem a tad premature. I’ll have more on this in a column Tuesday.
But here are your wild card essentials.
First, the standings, showing the records of the three teams in September and since the All-Star break:Team Record GB Sept AS break Atlanta 87-67 – 7-12 33-29 St. Louis 84-69 2.5 12-5 35-26 San Fran. 83-70 3.5 11-5 31-30
Here are the remaining schedules:• Braves (8): 2 at Florida, 3 at Washington, 3 vs. Philadelphia. • Cardinals (9): 3 vs. New York (N) 3 vs. Chicago (N), 3 at Houston. • Giants (9): 3 at Los Angeles (N), 3 at Arizona, 3 vs. Colorado.
Last season, the Braves were 23 games over .500 (78-55) and held a three-game lead over Philadelphia on Sept. 1. But they lost five of their next six and nine of their next 14 and needed a final-day, 6-5 victory over the Phillies, in combination with a San Diego loss to San Francisco, to reach the postseason. (That was after losing the first two games of the Phillies series, 11-5 and 7-0.)
It’s not a great situation. But the loss of starters Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hansen, along with a dreadful decline by Derek Lowe, has wrecked the starting rotation, and one of the the ripple effects has been an overworked bullpen.
The Braves remain in a good position. But they certainly don’t look like a playoff team, and if they can’t close this thing out in the next five games against the Marlins and Nationals, then it’s going to come down to the last three against the Phillies. And that’s not what they wanted.
By Jeff Schultz