LIVE: Will it be a sweep night for Braves over Nationals?

Closer Craig Kimbrel has a win and a save in the first two games of the Washington series. (AP photo)

Braves closerCraig Kimbrel has a win and a save in the first two games of the Washington series. (AP photo)

Welcome to the Braves-Washington Nationals series finale that few of us believed would mean anything,  and actually we’re still not sure if it means anything, but then again there is this thought: What if it means something?

After consecutive narrow victories Friday (2-1) and Saturday (5-4), the Braves go into tonight’s nationally televised game with a chance for their first series sweep over Washington in three years (Sept. 25-27, 2009). More significant than that historical moment (work with me here) is that the Braves have an opportunity to pull within 5½ games of first place in the National League East after going into this series 8½ back — and, depending on your perspective, seemingly comatose after being swept in Milwaukee.

Now, we learned last season what odds and percentages really mean. (Nothing.) The website Cool Standings calculates the Braves’ chances of winning the East at 1.8 percent going into Sunday (and that has skyrocketed from 0.5 percent before Friday’s game).

But here’s another way to look at it. If the Braves win tonight, they would be 84-63 with 15 games remaining. The National would be 89-57 with 16 left. Even if Washington went only 8-8 in those games, the Braves would need to go 13-2 just to tie them.

Cue Clint Eastwood: “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feeling lucky?”

Realistically, the rest of the season is mostly about securing a wild card spot, home field for that game and preparing for the postseason. But publicly, nobody in the clubhouse is conceding anything. Actually, nobody seems consumed with first place. It’s an amazingly low-stress clubhouse now, which is the polar opposite from a year ago at this time. I know everybody is burned out on discussing last season’s flameout but the difference in attitude this year is noteworthy.

If the Braves sweep, it would be significant just from the standpoint that the Braves haven’t folded and seem ready for the stretch run. But we’ll see where things go from here.

Tonight’s pitching match-up: Washington will go with its best starter — at least its best pitcher that hasn’t been shut down for the season — Gio Gonzalez (19-7, 2.93). The Braves go with Mike Minor (8-10, 4.42). Only one lineup change tonight: Reed Johnson is in left field tonight for Martin Prado, who is being rested. Brian McCann (knee) is out but he’s available for pinch-hitting duties.

That’s it for now. What are your thoughts on the Braves moving forward?

The cyber-venting lines are open.

By Jeff Schultz

220 comments Add your comment

Nova Scotia Steve

September 16th, 2012
6:32 pm

Here are my thoughts:

This team would be completely destroying teams if they even slightly improved their average with RISP.

We would be BLOWING teams away.

Nova Scotia Steve

September 16th, 2012
6:35 pm

I can’t believe how bad it’s been. This dog and pony show way of winning ballgames isn’t going to hold up in October.

You need SOME breaks but you need clutch hitting more so in the post-season to advance. I don’t even have words to explain this teams performance with men on base.

Aaron Isolda

September 16th, 2012
6:38 pm

You never know what could happen with it being a pretty close race at this point in the season. I think that there is a chance the Nats could fall due to Strasburg being shut down

Steve

September 16th, 2012
6:41 pm

Jeff do you ever sleep? Three live blogs in a row? Well done!

Puma

September 16th, 2012
6:46 pm

Nova – you take wins anyway you can, especially against a very good Nats team. And actually, I would say a lot of post season games are won and lost on errors, walks and even hit batsman. And although the winning run did come on a grazing of Simmons jersey last night, we did come back from 4 down, and shut their offense down for the last 7 innings. With that said, we obviously need to improve our hitting with RISP.

You would think it would kind of work itself out because generally, we are getting a lot of hits and base runners. Just not getting the big knock.

Puma

September 16th, 2012
6:52 pm

Actually, I guess I have to take that back, just looking at team hitting stats for September, we are in bottom third of NL in most categories…so yeah we need to start hitting.

Nats – 32 HR and 75 runs in Sept, Braves – 10 HR and 44 runs. That explains a lot.

Jo

September 16th, 2012
6:57 pm

I dont think they will win tonight but if its a competitive games the feel good feelings continue. What is most concerning is the RISP hitting…..its horrible. If they improve that they will stand a chance against the Nats in the playoffs, if not, they will not pass 4 games and be done…I am assuming the Braves will not collapse and they are a little better than last year…but they need a little better hitting to be a contender.

Steve

September 16th, 2012
6:59 pm

Jo, have a little faith. It’s not like Gonzalez has amazing numbers against Atlanta. Regarding the playoffs, it’s not like Medlen and Hudson give up a lot of runs. I have confidence in them vs. anyone.

rambunz

September 16th, 2012
7:01 pm

No chance to win the division. Jeff, you must be living a dream. In fact, just being in a one-game playoff is scary. I think the one-game playoff is a screwy idea. Tell the Commish.

Jeff Schultz

September 16th, 2012
7:02 pm

Steve — Yeah, well, just how the schedule broke. Who needs sleep. Hah. Thanks.

Jeff Schultz

September 16th, 2012
7:04 pm

For the record: The Braves and Nationals have the same record in September right now: 9-5. Difference was August: Nationals were 19-10, Braves 15-14.

Steve

September 16th, 2012
7:06 pm

How’s this for a interesting stat I noticed today….. Atlanta vs. the NL Central = 18-17. Washington = 26-9.

man and dog

September 16th, 2012
7:13 pm

I hope the Braves bring their hitting bats tonight

JSS

September 16th, 2012
7:15 pm

@ Jeff Schultz…
Did the blind ump bring his seeing eye dog to the Ted tonight? Or is he still drunk from all those free drinks the good people of Atlanta provided him after that gift?

Dawgdad (The Original)

September 16th, 2012
7:19 pm

Can’t believe Martin is sitting against a tough southpaw. Seems there might be someone that we could more easily not miss in the lineup, i.e. Uggla. Rest Martin against a tough right hander.

Yesterday was a real positive. Any time you can pick up a win on a hbp in a game started by Tommy Hanson, you are beating some large odds.

Jeff Schultz

September 16th, 2012
7:24 pm

JSS — You sound bitter. That’s not like you.

man and dog

September 16th, 2012
7:28 pm

Phillies and Pirates lose. Brewers win. Cards & Dodgers tied in top of tenth. Winning the top wild card position shouldn’t be an issue now.

JSS

September 16th, 2012
7:40 pm

@ Jeff Schultz…
Heyward won me 3 free BBQ sandwiches… The minute that ump blew that call, I bet my lawyer and good friend that he’s (Heyward) going deep… I’m not bitter ;-) That ump is blind!

man and dog

September 16th, 2012
7:41 pm

Douers pull a Braves trick in bottom of tenth. now going to the 11th.

Stinger2

September 16th, 2012
7:42 pm

Jeff: Regardless of the many negative comments made against Chipper, Fredi and Uggla, these men are professionals and deserve to be respected
for the efforts they give to win every game they can. I for one, and I do believe there are many others, believe this team will leave it all on the field whatever the outcome of this season. Yes, the naysayers have a right to their opinions and can complain all they like, but it won`t make any difference in what happens on the field.

JSS

September 16th, 2012
7:43 pm

Is Lilly up to leading him out to his position every inning?

ER Steve

September 16th, 2012
7:44 pm

Jeff you think Minor has to earn a postseason start still? Or has he done enough to warrant one. Assuming we get past the play in game.

JSS

September 16th, 2012
7:47 pm

@7:42P
“Regardless of the many negative comments made against Chipper, Fredi and Uggla”

Where the heck has that trio been mentioned tonight?

Hillbilly D

September 16th, 2012
7:53 pm

Actually, nobody seems consumed with first place.

That’s what happens when a sport decides to go the wildcard route.

sid's bream

September 16th, 2012
7:57 pm

Unless this offense gets figured out, we are going nowhere. I wouldn’t trust the braves in a one game wild card shootout against anyone right now. they can’t keep up this lucky streak for getting runs they didn’t really earn. they have to see more pitches and learn to hit with RISP.
With that said, our pitching staff looks bright in the future.
If Beachy looks anything close to what he was in the beginning of the year when he comes back, Medlen looks anything close to what he has been since being called up, and Minor keeps improving as well as he has, we’ll have three young cheep top tier starters. Let Huddy keep doing what he does one more year, Trade Hanson for some offense (hopefully a left fielder) and sign Greinke this offseason and we’ll have one of the best rotations in the league.
If we can put together any sort of offense behind that rotation, we take the division back.

T-Dawg

September 16th, 2012
7:59 pm

Steve
September 16th, 2012
7:06 pm

How’s this for a interesting stat I noticed today….. Atlanta vs. the NL Central = 18-17. Washington = 26-9.

Try this one: 35-40. Braves record against above .500 teams. This is the most telling record for me.

man and dog

September 16th, 2012
8:00 pm

On to the 12th and our game

JSS

September 16th, 2012
8:01 pm

Jeff Schultz

September 16th, 2012
8:02 pm

Stinger2 — You are definitely correct that nothing that anybody says, writes or Tweets is going to make a difference in what they do.

Jeff Schultz

September 16th, 2012
8:03 pm

ER Steve — I don’t think anything about postseason pertaining to pitching has been decided — or will be for a while.

Jeff Schultz

September 16th, 2012
8:04 pm

JSS — That looks good. … BTW, Lilly bids 2 biscuits for one your BBQ sandwiches.

Stinger2

September 16th, 2012
8:06 pm

JSS: You know very well what I mean. Just because the Regulars who constantly blast Fredi, Chipper and Uggla have not shown up yet, they will.

JSS

September 16th, 2012
8:08 pm

Too late Lilly, they’ve gone to tummy heaven!

Steve

September 16th, 2012
8:11 pm

Dang, there goes the no hitter!

Sonny Clusters

September 16th, 2012
8:13 pm

Au contraire, mon ami. You know what? You, yourself are the reason for the six-man rotation. Fredi admitted he had given it no thought.

JSS

September 16th, 2012
8:14 pm

I know they haven’t been mentioned before you brought them up… That’s an hour and a half of blogging… Dude, that is what McCarthy did, calling out invisible enemies… Good luck with that…

Jeff Schultz

September 16th, 2012
8:15 pm

Sonny Clusters — You are correct sir. And I’m sure that I will be handsomely compensated for my contributions to this team. But first, I must tend to my unicorn. She is thirsty.

Steve

September 16th, 2012
8:17 pm

Jeff, please also make the Braves pitch Medlen in the Wild Card game. Thanks!

Jeff Schultz

September 16th, 2012
8:17 pm

JSS — Charlie McCarthy had enemies? That poor wooden doll?

T-Dawg

September 16th, 2012
8:23 pm

Same pitch 5 times in a row.

JSS

September 16th, 2012
8:23 pm

Charlie McCarthy had an FBI file… That wooden doll had a a habit of dressing in little girl gear in his chest in the dark…

sid's bream

September 16th, 2012
8:24 pm

nice to see johnson making Gonzalez work

Jeff Schultz

September 16th, 2012
8:24 pm

Standing ovation for Chipper Jones. I guess people like him.

Jeff Schultz

September 16th, 2012
8:27 pm

Sid’s bream — Correct. And about that, Braves no runs but Gonzalez threw 21 pitches that inning.

Sonny Clusters

September 16th, 2012
8:27 pm

Coach used to dress up like that on Thursday nights.

JSS

September 16th, 2012
8:28 pm

“I guess people like him.”

They like imitation Fried Pork rinds too!

Jeff Schultz

September 16th, 2012
8:32 pm

JSS — I’m just a transplant myself but I believe you have just made a blanket statement about rednecks. Please explain yourself, sir.

JSS

September 16th, 2012
8:32 pm

JSS

September 16th, 2012
8:34 pm

The imitation fried pork rind has no one demographic selling point… Ask any corner market owner…

Dawg On A Leash

September 16th, 2012
8:35 pm

They just showed Michael Morse in dugout. His hair looks like he put a quart of quaker state oil in it. Looks like he woke up and threw on a cap…