I said it was over last week, and I meant it then and mean it still. With 19 games to go, the Braves are 7 1/2 games behind Philadelphia in the NL East and 6 1/2 behind wild card leader Colorado. They’d have to go 15-4 to finish 90-72, and 90 wins is often the cut-off point for playoff admittance in the National League. I don’t think they can go 15-4.
But I didn’t think they’d sweep the Cardinals in St. Louis, either.
Go back to the standings. There’s only a game’s difference between the Braves’ deficit in the division and in the wild card standings, but that one game could still be significant. They now figure to have a better chance — still not to say a good chance — in the East. The Braves have three games left with the Phillies, who are having bullpen problems like you wouldn’t believe. (Remember Jeff Bennett? Now think how it would be were Jeff Bennett your closer.)
Were the Braves within 6 1/2 of the Phils, as opposed to the Rockies, you’d think, “Sweep them here over the weekend and you could get within three games or so of first place with two weeks left. And that could be interesting.”
But the Braves need to have two series left against Philly, not just the scheduled one. And the race in which they have less far to climb is the one in which they have three clubs over which to clamber, and the Braves don’t play either the Giants or the Rockies.
The schedule otherwise is most kind. Of the 19 remaining games, 13 are against the Mets and the Nationals. Put another way, the Braves could reach 88 victories just by beating teams they should beat. But not beating teams they should beat is why the Braves are where they are. They were swept by the sub.-500 Reds at a time when they needed to sweep the Reds.
At this late date, even taking three from St. Louis couldn’t undo thedamage inflicted by Cincy. That unaccountable series turned a semi-realistic chance into something requiring a Flutie-to-Phelan bolt of lightning. And Hail Marys, the realist in me feels compelled to note, tend to arrive in a different sport.