On statistics-driven websites like CoolStandings.com, the Braves are still given a 65.7 percent chance of winning the National League wild card spot, almost twice the percentage of the St. Louis Cardinals (34.3).
But if this is about odds, what are we still doing here?
The Braves’ wild card lead is down to one game after a 3-0 loss to Washington and the Cardinals’ 3-2 win over the Chicago Cubs. So as the team no doubt dreaded (but probably wouldn’t admit), its playoff lifeline will come down to the season-ending, three-game series against Philadelphia, beginning Monday night at Turner Field.
Math is one thing. Reality is another. Consider the pitching match-ups for the Phillies’ series. In game one, the Braves will start a rookie, Randall Delgado, against Cliff Lee. In game two, it’s the struggling Derek Lowe against Roy Oswalt. In the series finale, it’s Tim Hudson against the Phils’ Cole Hamels. (Alas, a push.) This is what happens when two of the team’s top three starters (Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson) are injured and starting pitching goes from a strength to a weakness.
UPDATE: Hamels apparently will not start Wednesday’s regular season finale for Philadelphia. It will be either Kyle Kendrick or Joe Blanton, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.
Yes, the Braves may still hang on. But it doesn’t help that St. Louis closes out the regular season against the Houston Astros, who have the worst record in baseball.
The other major concern is how the Braves are finishing. It’s not just that they’re losing — they’re 10-17 since opening a 10½-game lead over the Cardinals on Aug. 25 — it’s who they’re losing to. They have lost three straight series to three sub-.500 teams: the New York Mets, Florida Marlins and Washington.
In the past month, they’re 10-11 against four non-playoff teams (Mets, Marlins, Nationals, Dodgers) and 0-6 against two good teams (Phillies, Cardinals).
That doesn’t sound like a team primed for the postseason.
Yes, the math still says the Braves are favored. But right now, it feels like they’ll be done in three games.
By Jeff Schultz