Braves are hoping to change the postseason script

Chipper Jones is the only remaining Brave from the last team to win a playoff round. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Chipper Jones is lone remaining Brave from the last team to win a playoff round. (Brant Sanderlin)

As much as there will be grand proclamations Friday night — because that’s just the way things function in this 24/7, hyperventilating, turbo-Tweeting sports world — let’s start with a little perspective:

If the Braves defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in the Wild Card game — a best-of-one? — it shouldn’t be taken as a sign that they’re absolutely destined to win 11 more postseason games and the World Series and will make people forget the ’27 Yankees, and if they lose to the Cardinals it won’t wouldn’t affirm that the Kenshin Kawakami signing has forever cursed the franchise (although that one might be worth studying for a while).

It’s just one game.

But isn’t it about time for a new script?

We’re all familiar with the mixed-emotions math of the Braves in the 1990s and 2000s: 14 divisions, 5 pennants, 1 World Series. Too small a number at the end for such a big number at the beginning.

But particularly alarming of late is where a string of miserable Octobers has gotten them. The Braves haven’t won a playoff series since 2001. Chipper Jones is the only holdover from that club, which swept Houston in the divisional playoffs but lost to Arizona in the NLCS.  Jason Heyward was 12. Kris Medlen, tonight’s starter, was a largely ignored high school shortstop and pitcher in California.

The roster has almost completely turned over. So associating this team with most of the previous 10 — save last season’s — really isn’t fair.

But a win certainly would act as some sort of spiritual cleansing for everybody else.

“We can’t worry about all that,” catcher David Ross said following Thursday’s workout. “We’re just trying to win a game. We know we’re good. We won 94 games. Everybody in here thinks we have a chance to win a World Series. But we have to win this one.”

Through the roster transition, the Braves have had a steady uptick in regular-season victories over the past five years: 72, 86, 91, 89, 94. At some point, there needs to be success in October to validate all this, certainly for general manager Frank Wren. But the question is whether we can draw many conclusions from this playoff-ette against the Cards.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez is calling it, “Game 7.” But it’s Game 7 without six games of buildup and six games of revelation about what this team is, or can be.

“I think it’s unfair, win or lose, to draw a conclusion,” Gonzalez said. “I think you judge a team over the course of 162 games, and the way they’ve battled some adversities, the critics, all the [things] that have been thrown at us for the last year, really. That’s the way you judge a team. [Friday’s] game, anything can happen – a bad hop over somebody’s head, a ball lost in the shadows, somebody gets hit with the bases loaded. Crazy stuff.”

This much is certain: Too often the story has been: They lost. Seldom has it been: Wow, look at what they did in October. Fair or unfair, one win would begin to change that perception.

Ross is correct: This is a team capable of winning it all. It’s certainly not worse than the St. Louis team that made it in as a wild card with the final spasm as the Braves were completing a 10-20 implosion, then went on to win the Series.

They have the starting pitcher (assuming this Medlen fantasy ride continues). They have enough offense, even with Brian McCann banged up and struggling. They have Craig Kimbrel in the bullpen. They have Heyward, Martin Prado, Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla playing well. They have Michael Bourn and Andrelton Simmons back from injuries.

Now they just need to win Game No. 163. It wouldn’t mean everything for the future. But it would provide at least a hint of affirmation about what they’re headed.

The Braves won six more games than the Cardinals, but they’re not going to complain about a one-game series.

“We would’ve been in this game last year,” Eric Hinske said. “So you can’t hate on it too much.”

When the Braves didn’t make it last year, we wondered what it meant. It turned out the team that came back this season was pretty good. But a loss on Friday would extend a streak that already has lasted far too long.

By Jeff Schultz

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147 comments Add your comment

Escaped from Email Purgatory

October 5th, 2012
8:19 am

Without this silly “playoffette” the Braves record had earned them a spot in a post season series.

I don’t think a win or loss to the Cards in this game means much of anything one way or the other – as far as whether or not they’ve moved on from the choker reputation.

The Braves did a great job this season. Here’s hoping it doesn’t end tonight.

Chop (to the playoffs)

October 5th, 2012
8:48 am

Four runs and six strong innings from Medlen and I like the Braves chances to close this thing out.

Joey

October 5th, 2012
8:54 am

If I had 3 wishes, they would be:

For a Braves win tonight

For Clusters to come back and entertain

For the Clusters’ stalker to drop his laptop – from 10 stories

Good decision playing Ross, Fredi. Bet his defense alone pays off.
Go Bravos!

Supersize that order, mutt

October 5th, 2012
9:03 am

Braves win tonight, bank on it! And my money is on Tech firing Coach Johnson after a blowout loss at Clemsom. We’re just not good enough.

All I'm Saying Is....

October 5th, 2012
9:12 am

It’s a one game, all-in type of thing so block out all the distractions and do what we do!

LET’S GO BRAVES!

Thomas Brown

October 5th, 2012
9:23 am

Supersize that order, mutt September 17th, 2012 12:46 am

“If it gets you off trashing Tech for two minor probations, then enjoy it. Sure, we would like more wins against the dwags, but it is what it is.”

Supersize that order, mutt March 10th, 2012 11:31 am

“I don’t see where any of you ignoramuses are coming up with the idea that Johnson is at fault in this case. It was DRAD who did what he was supposedly not allowed to do. Johnson wasn’t even involved at that point and was not until DRAD told him what was going on.”
__________________________________________________________________
You seem more obsessed with your NCAA PROBATIONS in FOOTBALL back-to-back including 2012 and with DEFENDING PAUL JOHNSON.

Now, you have changed your mind and the NCAA PROBATION 2012 for Georgie tek in FOOTBALL on the Major Infractions Database is important to you and you and you still defend Paul Johnson.

Now, in this post you say you want Paul Johnson fired and you are still on NCAA PROBATION in FOOTBALL 2012 back-to-back for Major Infractions Database.

In fact now you say Paul Johnson, when he found out about his players in the Major Infractions Investigation, was not at fault at all for interviewing his players when Paul Johnson has coached college football for over 30 years now as head football coach and knows that he cannot tamper with any NCAA investigation.

Sure, it is ALL PAUL JOHNSON’S FAULT for Georgie tek being on NCAA PROBATION in FOOTBALL 2012 for Major Infractions Database because Paul Johnson knew he could not talk to the players about any possible NCAA investigation and

DID IT ANYWAY.

Now, you want him fired, and think the Braves are going to do something in 2012. No. No hitting. Nothing up the middle.

Don

October 5th, 2012
9:33 am

Shug, you nailed it. Winning one game is not going to change Bobby Cox’s 1 WS Championship in 14 post season opportunities with perhaps the best overall pitching staff in the history of baseball and (for the most part) a very good to great supporting cast. Never in the history of the game has there been such a waste of talent by a manager.

Thomas Brown

October 5th, 2012
9:35 am

Yes, there has been Don. Mark Richt at UGA 2001 to present. But, Bobby Cox was horrible at playing the wrong guys. If you gave him 25 players on the roster, the # 25 player better be great because at the most important part of the most important game, the # 25 player would be front-and-center.

PMC

October 5th, 2012
9:36 am

Well, you know, all it takes is playing better defense than they have and scoring runs.

The bane of this teams existance is failing to get runners in when they need to do so. It’s been that way for 20 years. It’s who they are as a franchise, the strikeouts are a lot worse this year, but scoring runs when they need them the most is still trouble.

I’m really confident in this bunch though as opposed to the last couple of runs. I like the defense especially with the healthy Ross over and obviously ailing Brian McCann.

I think the offense is coming around finally this year. We all know they are better against the top of the rotation guys rather than the 4th or 5th starters or guys coming out of nowhere.

Thomas Brown

October 5th, 2012
9:40 am

Our Offense is coming around 2012 ?

Huh ?

We cannot hit to save our lives.

You watch.

Peter R.

October 5th, 2012
9:41 am

Well, I completely agree with you. The Braves typically play better after having a day off so maybe they have a shot at getting this thing rolling. If you ask me, the Nationals really don’t look so hot without Mr. Strasburg. Plus, their play down the stretch has been rather uninspiring. I could see a team like last years Cardinals winning it all, please see the Detroit Tigers. Having a team with 94 wins play a one game playoff when the Tigers only have 87 and don’t is BS to me. MLB should scrap the format and make it like basketball, where the top 4 teams advance on. So dumb, but that’s Bud Selig. All baseball really cares about is TV ratings. I’ll put my money on them choking. Next year should be better. Look at the post Griffey Reds. That 14 mil Chip’s making will be spent much better next year. We need offense and with 20 million that should hopefully cure the issue. Cut JJ and McCann and they’ll have plenty of money to move around. Just make some trades to get a decent catcher.

afan

October 5th, 2012
9:43 am

If Braves lose– it will be like last years losing to Cards in last game. Just because its called a one game play-off don’t mean crap. I know Braves won 94 games(great) but all they got for it was home field..MLB is all about money not the teams and fans. Damn game at 5:07 also sucks no respect for fans. I pray Braves win– if not its back to same old sh*t..can’t win a play-off game–if thats what you call it. Some people say win for Chipper etc–I say win for the Fans, City, State, Players, sick in hospitals, old folks homes, and those that can’t do anything else but watch and pull for the team they love_The Braves____

Tumbledown

October 5th, 2012
9:47 am

Thomas Brown – Will you be happy if the Braves win today? Or, will you be happier if they lose so you can exclaim you were right all along?

Thomas Brown

October 5th, 2012
9:47 am

Liberty Media is putting Chipper Jones’ $ 14 million for 14 home runs 2012 in their pockets.

They ain’t spending that on anything, and you know it.

Thomas Brown

October 5th, 2012
9:49 am

It doesn’t matter what the Braves do this afternoon, one way or the other. There are a sorry baseball team, with sorry ownership, sorry manager, nothing up the middle where great teams are strong, and cannot hit their way out of a wet paper bag. Not only that, there isn’t any superstar on this entire roster, except for 1 pitcher – and, here we are in the 1 game play-off and he isn’t even pitching.

What does that tell ?

Joey

October 5th, 2012
9:50 am

The issue ain’t so much “the hitting” as it is the hitting with RISP.

Dead last in the NL.

Maybe Simmons, Heyward and Freeman can carry us. Lord knows the vets can’t.

Tumbledown

October 5th, 2012
9:53 am

TB – It tells me that you need to focus more attention on things that bring you a little more joy in life. Life is too short to get bogged down on matters that obviously frustrate you.

Joey

October 5th, 2012
9:53 am

Thomas, a “sorry” team soesn’t win 94 games, ever.

Granted, the Braves are a long shot to win it all, but they had the 4th best record in MLB.

jharber

October 5th, 2012
9:58 am

Question to everyone, Would Prado not be better utilized in the 5 hole and put Simmons in 2 hole? Just curious to thoughts.

Keith

October 5th, 2012
10:01 am

I wouldn’t be surprised if Ross comes up big in this role. The last couple of years he has always seemed to have a timely double or homer when he’s starting.

Braves win 3-1. Medlen pitches 7 strong with 10ks. Kimbrel strikes out the side. Turner Field is pademonium. Go BRAVES! :)

Tumbledown

October 5th, 2012
10:02 am

jharbor – Question to everyone, Would Prado not be better utilized in the 5 hole and put Simmons in 2 hole? Just curious to thoughts.

I like the idea of Bourn, Simmons, Prado, Heyward, Uggla, Freeman, Chipper, and Ross. Get some speed on base early, and may be someone down the order can come through.

Of course, how dare we talk strategy on this blog when most people are stuck cursing the past and/or proclaiming no hope for today’s game.

Keith

October 5th, 2012
10:02 am

pandemonium *

Phillisux

October 5th, 2012
10:03 am

I see morons all over this blog. They don’t even know they are morons.

Keith

October 5th, 2012
10:04 am

Re:

Is prado batting 3rd? He’s been our best hitter in September I believe…not a terrible idea.

I like Fredi’s style of managing this year. So much different from Bobby Cox….even though Bobby had some good moments at times, I like Fredi and the overall job he has done. He doesn’t stand pat with the status quo.

Go BRAVES ! :)

Bulldawg

October 5th, 2012
10:04 am

Thomas Brown,

If the Braves truly have a “superstar” pitcher and it’s not Medlen, then who is it? Anyone in their right mind would throw Medlen with the streak he has going. The guy has been lights out and an automatic win.

As far as not being strong up the middle, I’m not seeing it. The Braves have one of the best young defensive shortstops in baseball, Uggla is solid at second, and Bourn is certainly no slouch in centerfield. Ross is known as one of the game’s best defensive catchers.

I’ll give you the hitting. If we hit like we did all season, the pitching had better be off the charts.

jharber

October 5th, 2012
10:05 am

Tumbledown The only thing I would change in your lineup would be Chip and Uggla.

Keith

October 5th, 2012
10:07 am

RE: jharber

agreed. can’t have chipper that far down in the lineup in the postseason

oldfart

October 5th, 2012
10:10 am

This one game play-in, playoff, whatever is not baseball. All playoff series should be 7 games and the team with the second best record of non-divisional winners should get a hearty handshake and a see you next Spring send off.

Baseball would have a better commissioner if they dug up Kenesaw Mountain Landis and propped him up behind a desk.

jharber

October 5th, 2012
10:12 am

I believe that would be ultimate lineup for this club 1-8. I think this would get the job done. I also like Ross for Mac right now, Mac is hurting but again Ross is also.

Tumbledown

October 5th, 2012
10:14 am

Ok, you convinced me!

jharber

October 5th, 2012
10:19 am

I do not know how many follow Double AA ball but Betancourt is going to be a special player if he can fully recover from his injury. He has good make up and outlook.

Don

October 5th, 2012
10:32 am

Regardless of anything else, there are two bright spots:
(1) We will not have to see Bobby Cox managing,
(2) We will not have to see Andruw Jones at the plate.

Billy Mumphries

October 5th, 2012
10:33 am

“Shug, you nailed it. Winning one game is not going to change Bobby Cox’s 1 WS Championship in 14 post season opportunities with perhaps the best overall pitching staff in the history of baseball and (for the most part) a very good to great supporting cast. Never in the history of the game has there been such a waste of talent by a manager.”

Yeah, this is true, but don’t know why I’m dwelling on it right now. A baseball fan having watched the Braves from afar during that era, I, and most knowledgeable fans, were perplexed by the lack of success with that talent base. All talk of BC worship made no sense to me. And that includes proud talk of his record for being booted from games. How hard is that?? Go nose to nose with another fat official and then get bansished to the locker roon to eat Fritos, Dogs, and have a brew. Never understand the BC pedestal talk.

This is OUTRAGEOUS

October 5th, 2012
10:46 am

I can’t believe this game is on so early. Now I can’t watch it. WTF.

This is OUTRAGEOUS

October 5th, 2012
10:52 am

I just called the commissioner’s office and complained. No joke.

This is OUTRAGEOUS

October 5th, 2012
10:53 am

The Office of the Commissioner of Basebal
Phone: 212-931-7800

toby

October 5th, 2012
10:53 am

Fredi deserves props for makeing the right decision on starting Ross,a tuff decision a lot would not have made,but right now Ross is def playing better.As for the questions about why the 5:07 start,thats easy…TV,IT CONTROLS everything,they have another game tonight AL,remember,there not going to show them at the same time!!!!

Wutehvah

October 5th, 2012
11:01 am

TBS has the wildcard games that will go back to back. We get the early start being on ET. Sucks, but that how it goes. Lets go Medlen and lets go Braves!!

Thomas Brown

October 5th, 2012
11:27 am

$ 14 million Chipper Jones
$ 14 million Dan Uggla
$ 13 million Brian McCann
$ 9 million Tim Hudson
$ 7 million Michael Bourn
$ 5 million Martin Prado
$ 5 million Paul Maholm
$ 3 million Eric O’Flaherty
$ 2 million David Ross
$ 2 million Eric Hinske
$ 2 million Jeff Baker
$ 1 million Reed Johnson
$ 1 million Lyle Overbay

That’s the top dozen. Now, who is our one Superstar ? Duh.

HUH?????

October 5th, 2012
11:43 am

Braves are 5-1 against the Cards this year.

The Braves pitchers/relievers are better.

The Braves have a better Sept record than the Cards.

ESPN picked the Cards to win because……of last year.

RW-(the original)

October 5th, 2012
11:50 am

I should get this out before the game so it doesn’t sound like sour grapes if the Cards win. Bud Selig is an idiot…OK, that isn’t the point because that won’t change no matter what happens. The point is if he wants to make the last games count for something for more teams he can have this second wild card team, but only if that team is good enough to stay within say 3 games of the first wild card team. If they can’t do that then no play in game for the “second wild card” or Card in this case.

Phillisux

October 5th, 2012
11:59 am

HUH????? October 5th, 2012 11:43 am Braves are 5-1 against the Cards this year. The Braves pitchers/relievers are better. The Braves have a better Sept record than the Cards.

HUH?????: Here’s a few more: Braves have one of the best home records in 2012; Cards are below .500 on the road; Braves one of the best defensive teams in NL. GO BRAVES!

BTW: ESPN can stuff the Cardinals where the sun don’t shine (St. Louis)

Tumbledown

October 5th, 2012
12:05 pm

Colin Cowherd of ESPN just characterized the Cardinals as a step-up franchise and the Braves as a step-down franchise. This has to change, starting today.

Thomas Brown

October 5th, 2012
12:07 pm

Braves have lost 6 consecutive series and counting in play-offs.

0-5 at Turner Field in elimination games.

We watch our opponents celebrate on our own field, every time.

So, what did the Braves do ?

CELEBRATED like there was no tomorrow to make the play-offs like 10 other teams, and us not even division champions.

Kris Medlin $ 490,000 vs St Louis Superstar Kyle Lohse at $ 13 million for 2012.

So, why will the Braves not win ?

Because we cannot hit and runs will be at a premium. If we win, do we win the Divisional Series ? No. We cannot hit. We can’t hit with runners in scoring position and we can’t get our players on-base. We have no big-bopper. We have a superstar and he ain’t playing today. It just doesn’t matter what happens with the Braves today. Georgia, too, makes no difference. We end up Top 10 and South Carolina does not, either way Saturday, because South Carolina plays Clemson, LSU and Georgia while we play only them.

dean

October 5th, 2012
12:13 pm

Go Braves. Our family needs something to smile about right now. If you don’t win today, thanks for 94 smiles this year. Who woulda thunk it? T

DIPEN PATEL

October 5th, 2012
12:13 pm

It’s time for the OUR BELOVED BRAVES to start loving WORLD SERIES TITLES instead of NL East titles or October postseason appearances like they have never before because winning 14 straight NL East titles has always been a total disappointment for the BRAVES with just 1 WORLD SERIES TITLE.As for the BRAVOS be TOTALLY ANGRY and NASTY and start winning the BIG ONES in OCTOBER EVERY YEAR starting in 2012 and TOTALLY BEYOND.GO BRAVESNATION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mister Frisky

October 5th, 2012
12:18 pm

No time for a tight o-ring.Need to start some new history today.Everyone is concerned about winning one for the Chipper.I wanna see how Heyward,Simmons,Freeman, Prado do.with everything on the line.These are the cornerstones of next year and beyond.If those four crap in bed this group will be no different than playoff teams past.

Felix

October 5th, 2012
12:25 pm

Colin Cowherd is a step down sports reporter.

Tumbledown

October 5th, 2012
12:33 pm

I agree Felix

kirkinga

October 5th, 2012
12:34 pm

I think you can make an argument that the Braves never recovered from Leyritz’s smash of that hanging slider in ‘96.