Braves collapsing, may need another last-day miracle

Dan Uggla consoles closer Craig Kimbrel after the Braves blew a game to Florida.

Dan Uggla consoles closer Craig Kimbrel after the Braves blew a game to Florida.

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

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

185 comments Add your comment

Dawglasville

September 19th, 2011
10:46 pm

Train wreck. This is very hard to watch but I know I will.

Really?

September 19th, 2011
10:47 pm

Siggggggggggggggggggh! Does it have to be this tough to be a Braves fan in the Fall each year as of late? Even if we get in, it’s best to be playing hot ball NOW not a month ago. I’m losing faith fast and I’ve followed them since I moved here in 1988.

Dawglasville

September 19th, 2011
10:48 pm

I can’t wait to get Lowe off the books. Hansen has to come back or we have zero chance.

Biscuit Bennett

September 19th, 2011
10:50 pm

Idiots manager still believes in Lowe, eh?

Herschel Talker

September 19th, 2011
10:52 pm

Schultzie:

Please tell us how the Braves remain in good position.? The Cards have a joke schedule from here on out, and the Braves play 2 more against FL, 3 in DC (where they don’t play well), and 3 against Philly. Please explain to us why this is a good position.

HT

Harpie

September 19th, 2011
10:53 pm

This team is hocking a giant hairball, and it’s not fun to witness.

Don'tBelieveIt

September 19th, 2011
10:54 pm

I am still not believing what I saw. It was like a bad accident. You didn’t want to look; but you could not help yourself. I know the Braves have to be really down now. What a terrible way to lose another ball game. Doubt tho that we will go any farther. Just end the season, get rid of the problems, IE Freddi and Lowe, and try again next year.

Sonny Clusters

September 19th, 2011
10:54 pm

“You can’t win if you can’t throw strikes’” – Chipper Jones

“You can’t win if you can’t catch a ball at third base.” – Sonny Clusters

JEB

September 19th, 2011
10:55 pm

It might not feel so tense if the Braves were playing better baseball.
The sad truth that really gets us in the guts – they are not playing good baseball right now!

Dawglasville

September 19th, 2011
10:55 pm

This is as bad as the Giants meltdown in 92 (?) when we caught them for the West. Sucks to be on this side of it.

Won 14 straight!

September 19th, 2011
10:56 pm

Stick a fork in this boys club..

Bring Bobby back

JEB

September 19th, 2011
10:56 pm

St Louis is playing good baseball right now,
the Braves are not!

Rich Clary

September 19th, 2011
11:01 pm

It may rest in the hands of the kids. That may be risky, but kinda exciting…

What Happened?

September 19th, 2011
11:04 pm

This:
“The Braves can start thinking about the postseason. They’ve got an 8½ game lead over St. Louis for the wild card. (Their magic number is 15.) Even if the Braves go only 12-11 in their final 23 games, the Cardinals would need to go 20-2 just tie them. So the playoff berth is safe”

all of a sudden became this:
“It’s not a great situation”

BravesRdone

September 19th, 2011
11:07 pm

Put a fork in them. The Braves are done! No pitching, no offense, no guts, no life. Same old Braves, collapse the last month of the season. I’m done too.

Jeff Schultz

September 19th, 2011
11:08 pm

Herschel. They have a 2.5 game lead with eight games left and the next five games are against non-playoff teams. I think most would look at that as an advantage, even if the Braves have had some problems with those teams.

Doom and Gloom

September 19th, 2011
11:09 pm

Well fellow Bravo Fans, its been fun… but I think this ship has pretty much completely sunken……GO FALCONS!!!!

Jeff Schultz

September 19th, 2011
11:09 pm

Sonny Clusters — You are a visionary.

Jeff Schultz

September 19th, 2011
11:10 pm

What Happened? — Yeah, what idiot wrote that? … Oh, wait a minute . . . Really, those numbers are pretty staggering when you think about it. That’s what happens when you can’t even play .500 baseball.

count_schemula

September 19th, 2011
11:10 pm

Terry Pendleton must go!

nashvillewill

September 19th, 2011
11:14 pm

The strength of this team has become its weakness – i.e., the bullpen. The weakness of this team has remained its weakness -i.e., hitting and especially situational hitting. With the bullpen collapsing this mediocre group performs to their level of mediocrity. When your best hitter is hitting .298 and the average is .250, that is the very definition of mediocrity. Pitchers cannot be perfect, especially rookie pitchers. Too much is asked of them due to the hitting problems. Too much stress. Braves will hopefully clean this up in offseason – not resign a SS who hits .230; trade some upside players who have not performed well (RF, LF); acquire a veteran righthander for the bullpen not named Linebrink. And find a veteran starter to replace Lowe. I’m looking forward to the offeseason; this group will go nowhere. And while we’re at it – can FG go join BC somewhere far far away from this team?

TheAntiMe

September 19th, 2011
11:14 pm

You have to give these Braves points for creativity in finding new ways to lose every night. I can only imagine what Skip would have thought: “Chopper to Chipper, this should do it – and he loses the ball in the lights?”

If it’s something bad and something bizarre, it can only happen to these Braves. Or so it would seem during this last month of the season. Tune in tomorrow night folks and see a meteorite crash into Chipper Jones as he heads toward home to score the game-tying run with two outs in the 9th.

Listening to the Braves announcing crew in the 9th, they had already marked this game off of the calender as a win. However, as one of their football colleagues likes to say: “Not so fast, my friend!”

It just gets more strange and more nauseating with each passing game.

Go Figure

September 19th, 2011
11:16 pm

Put a fork in ‘em- looks like they’re done. Barring a last minute resurgence from the depleted starting rotation and a suddendly shaky bullpen , this has all the making of a monumental collapse. Da Braves have lost all confidence in themselves and expect to lose. Looks like the NL Wild Card could come down to a two man race- Cards vs Giants. Very sad.

Doom and Gloom

September 19th, 2011
11:26 pm

Cheer up everyone… Lowe will come through for us…. And the Falcons will win the Superbowl this year, and The Bulldogs and Jackets will win their conferences… Oops… There I go dreaming again…please wake me as soon as this nightmare ends!

jacketinsc

September 19th, 2011
11:28 pm

Hey Jeff, what does the schedule say about Braves winning the Wild Card? I’m just asking because I recall you writing that the schedule said the Braves could catch the Phillies. That was about 3 weeks ago, if I recall correctly.

loweser

September 19th, 2011
11:30 pm

I will get you through the 3rd.

Jeff Schultz

September 19th, 2011
11:30 pm

Jacketinsc — Yep, I wrote that. The schedule said they could catch the Phillies. The team obviously didn’t say that.

PUREFAN

September 19th, 2011
11:31 pm

A 6 and 2 finish is what the Braves need for a jump start into the play-offs. Some early runs would be a boost for Delgado.

loweser

September 19th, 2011
11:33 pm

Its ok…things happen that you can’t control

loweser

September 19th, 2011
11:34 pm

the game is over, can’t do anything about it now

loweser

September 19th, 2011
11:34 pm

I tip my hat to the light that blinded chipper…he put up a heck of a shine!

loweser

September 19th, 2011
11:43 pm

interesting…up until this game, the braves had not los a game on a come-from-behind walk-off home run with 2 outs in the 9th inning or later since june 29,1999. They ARE making history! woo hooo

Billy

September 19th, 2011
11:43 pm

The kids are beat..over worked..Fredi is a joke.

Najeh Davenpoop

September 19th, 2011
11:44 pm

The only silver lining to this Braves collapse is that the Red Sox are also collapsing, which means the national media is so preoccupied with them that nobody has time to notice what’s going on here.

rash

September 19th, 2011
11:46 pm

man unbelievable the braves are ready to go hunting or something this is crazy and i hope d lowe dont get another chance we need hanson and the whole team has got to man up or we wont make the wild card

rash

September 19th, 2011
11:47 pm

jeff has no idea what is gonna happen for sure

Glock 45

September 19th, 2011
11:57 pm

Look at the bright side…at least they won’t embarass themselves and the fans with 3 straight losses in the playoffs. They usually choke in October.

Dadgummit

September 20th, 2011
12:08 am

Can’t even watch them anymore. Tired of the ulcers.

rally

September 20th, 2011
12:18 am

I said it once before and I will say it again. There was a reason Fredi Gonzalez was fired from Florida and might be a refreshing thing for this columnist to say exactly what that was. He was fired because Florida was train wreck and was going nowhere with him in charge. Not exactly stellar credentials to be handing over a top rate program the last two decades. Now he is in control of another train that is fixing to wreck with only 8 games to play. So I will one be glad to pack his bags at Hartsfield Intl if this fool loses a 10.5 game lead in the WC. Don’t doubt me….cause thats where this train is headed.

Mitchell

September 20th, 2011
12:39 am

Maybe Dan Uggla could have consoled Craig by not looking at two pitches right down the middle with the bases loaded and then hacking at a ball for the 300th time in 2011 and the final out of the inning.

wawel78

September 20th, 2011
12:42 am

I think the 92 Giants won 103 games. Their season was hardly a choke job. I want to be upset about this loss but really, the braves shouldn’t have been leading in this game. That 7th was crazy with how they scored those 4 runs.

If the braves can go 4-4, the cardinals have to go 7-2 just to tie them. If the braves play worse (or cardinals play better), then the braves don’t deserve to be there anyway.

Mike

September 20th, 2011
12:42 am

Jeff,
It may not come down to the Phils series. With as poorly as this team is playing, and as low as this team is on confidence, and with the fact that we go from here to face a team we always have issues with in the Nats, AND with as hot as the Cards are, we may fall behind well before we face the Phils. When we face the Phils we may not only be needing wins, but we may be needing the Astros of all teams to beat the suddenly red hot Cards.

Mitchell

September 20th, 2011
12:47 am

Fredi Gonzalez’s Marlins finished ahead of the Bobby Cox’s Braves in the standings two years in a row.

That may not say a whole lot considering how God awful Bobby was in the final years of his career but it deserves to be pointed out to those who want to put everything on his successor.

The Braves played inspired baseball for the entirety of Bobby Cox’s final season and yet we haven’t seen a fraction of the clutch hitting or the flair for the dramatic that they took into the playoffs last year.

Can anybody really say they have given Fredi their all? It’s not like Bobby ever got the most out of his players.

All he ever did was make a fool out of himself defending players that were not worthy of being defended and getting thrown out of games.

What did that ever accomplish?

He reportedly said he felt Matt Diaz had something in him other managers didn’t see and Matt thusly credits him for the career he has now.

Again, what did that ever accomplish?

Mitchell

September 20th, 2011
12:52 am

The Braves scored those runs because they finally stopped what they were doing and started taking pitches and decided to let the Marlins relievers walk them when they clearly wanted to walk them.

You know what? Good for Omar. He was absolutely pivotal in us getting to the playoffs last year and yet we get rid of him for that tool Uggla and then we chose to bring back Matt Diaz, who did absolutely nothing to help us get to the playoffs last year.

We obviously don’t deserve what he contributes to the teams he plays for.

Mitchell

September 20th, 2011
12:56 am

The Braves have to get to the playoffs. You can’t say you’d rather not make it than get embarrassed, which we no doubt would anyway even if they won 100 games.

The Braves will always find a way to lose in October and those occasions have been nothing if not memorable.

To completely choke on this makes the entire season a waste. Nothing will have been accomplished whatsoever.

It is always better to get there and lose than what the Braves are dabbling in.

Mitchell

September 20th, 2011
12:59 am

Sonny Clusters

September 19th, 2011
10:54 pm

“You can’t win if you can’t throw strikes’” – Chipper Jones

“You can’t win if you can’t catch a ball at third base.” – Sonny Clusters

That is f*ing funny. Gotta tip your cap to that one.

idiots will say the dumbest things

September 20th, 2011
1:08 am

You know how to tell the fans that know nothing abiut the game? They are the ones who call for the coach’s head immediately when the team falters. They are the ones who claim a team that is in a wild card chase a losing team. They are the ones who harp on our all star third baseman who ironically can still play with the best of them. You say that Fredi managed a train wreck in Fla? I am sorry but you just showed the world (yes Jeff, the world is reading your blog ;) how ignorant you are. Fredi managed the hell out of that team for a trainwrek of an owner. People that complain like thishave never been involved in organized sports. They do good to get out of their parents basement Go back to your fantasy football league.

extremus

September 20th, 2011
1:19 am

At this rate I wonder why the Giants aren’t really being mentioned too much in the equation. The way things are going the Braves could end up finishing behind them AND the Cardinals.

September has been like watching a month-long train wreck unfold in slow, agonizing motion. And I’ll be honest; for me it’s killed most of my interest in watching the Braves for the time being; I’m just tired of the constant misery of runners left in scoring position, months-long hitting slumps, and blown leads. I mean TIRED and plain ready to do something else with my time; que sera sera where the Braves’ season is concerned. Another game, another three hours of my life I can’t get back and wish the heck I could. Football is already ongoing and while they certainly have issues of their own I think the Falcons are FAR closer to a world championship right now.

Ted M

September 20th, 2011
2:12 am

The Braves bullpen is great. They probably have been over worked but thats not it. No bullpen in the history of baseball is perfect. Its the offense, games early in the season count just as much as these and our offense blew so many games this season when we had both great starting pitching & relief pitching.

The Braves pitching, starting & relief, even w/all the rookies is the best part of the Braves. The offense not so much.

Lets go w/Delgado instead of Lowe.

Dr. Warren

September 20th, 2011
2:32 am

Only in Atlanta…jeez, the Braves are making the Hawks look like heroes.