Live from the ballpark: Are we believing this playoff run?

Even now, an hourly check of the standings is required. Because the first five times you look, you don’t really believe what you find. Two and a half games back with a week to play? The Braves? The Atlanta Braves? The 2009 Atlanta Braves? Pull the other leg, pal.

The 2009 Atlanta Braves are in a playoff drive. We around here had grown accustomed to playoff drives, so the sensation shouldn’t feel new. But this one definitely feels funny. It’s the chase from nowhere. It’s the finish we didn’t see coming and still in many ways refuse to acknowledge. Here’s a team that was 23-21 on Memorial Day, 39-41 on the Fourth and 70-67 on Labor Day, and still it has a real chance.

On the morning of Sept. 10 the Braves were 8 1/2 games back of Colorado in the wild card standings. They also trailed San Francisco, Florida and Chicago. They have lost two games since. They’ve gone 14-2 since Bobby Cox pulled Tommy Hanson after eight shutout innings in Houston and Rafael Soriano lost the game in the ninth. If anybody among us says he saw this coming, that person is a big fat liar.

The old Braves — by old, we mean the teams of last decade — could summon up such streaks on cue. They were never out of any chase. They trailed the Dodgers by 9 1/2 games at the 1991 All-Star break and clinched the West on the season’s penultimate day. They trailed the Giants by 10 games in July 1993 and clinched three hours after beating Colorado in the season’s 162nd game. But the 2009 Braves, as we’ve lamented at high decibel and impassioned length, were not those Braves.

And yet here they are. On Monday night they were to play Florida in a game that could well tip the odds in this final sprint from “possible” to “probable.” Colorado had the day off, which meant the Braves would awake Tuesday either two or three games behind with six to play. You can see the Rockies losing twice. (They lost three times last week, giving the Braves an opening. And the Braves didn’t lose at all.) But three times?

The figure filberts on ESPN.com still afford the Braves only a 15 percent chance of making the playoffs. (Up from 6.4 percent 10 days ago.) But Colorado has to be feeling the hot breath from Hotlanta. If any team knows how hot a team can get in the final furlong, it’s the Rockies.  Two years ago they won 13 of their final 14 games to force a one-game playoff with San Diego, in which they trailed by two runs in the bottom of the 13th. Next thing you knew, the Rocks were playing the (Red) Sox in the Series.

At this stage, it’s hard to see the Braves losing even once in four games to Washington, against which the regular season concludes. Granted, this is baseball, and any pitcher is liable to shut down somebody without warning, but still … would you bet against any of the Braves’ pitchers in any game against the worst team in baseball?

The Rockies, by way of contrast, close with three games at Dodger Stadium, and an even better Braves foil was undone there 16 years ago. The 1993 Giants won 103 games but lost on the season’s final day to their nemesis in blue, and the Braves, watching on TV having polished off Colorado — Glavine pitched and Justice hit a homer, a parlay we would see again to dramatic effect in October 1995 — celebrated the most of improbable runs.

Or so we thought. If they pull this off, they’d trump even that wonder. If they pull this off … well, we’d all look a little silly, wouldn’t we? Silly but giddy.

And with that: I conclude my part of the writing for the time being and invite your comments, predictions, movie recommendations. I’m at the ballpark and will be happy to chat until the cows come home, as we say in cow country.

277 comments Add your comment

Brandon from Warner Robins

September 28th, 2009
7:06 pm

I believe…..JUST WIN!!!!

candler willis

September 28th, 2009
7:08 pm

Do I DO I!!! OF COURSE The Braves can do this and go far in playoffs..But BUT the offense has tio keep hitting and bullpen cant blow 1 run games thats it.We all know what the starters will give us but this will be a reall test vs. the marlins we need 2 out of 3 and a sweep would be GREAT. GO BRAVES!!!!!!!!!!!

Dan A.

September 28th, 2009
7:08 pm

Just win, baby!

Karma Police

September 28th, 2009
7:09 pm

Colorado has one coming from us. Let’s shock the baseball world.

The Dust

September 28th, 2009
7:09 pm

They got a chance. If they did it, I may jump off a building. Contemplating going to see the Dodgers play the Rockies this weekend. GO BRAVES!

Brandon from Warner Robins

September 28th, 2009
7:10 pm

Mark, hows the crows lookin?

Mark Bradley

September 28th, 2009
7:10 pm

If the Braves win tonight, I think they’ll be playing next week. Either on Monday in a one-game playoff with the Rocks or in the NLDS in Dodger Stadium.

How’s that?

Barkin'Dog

September 28th, 2009
7:10 pm

Nothing like a jolt of excitement in the Fall air! This is not only fun it’s exhilarating… and pretty cool you’re blogging the game Mark. I’ll check in with you from time to time. Go Bravos!

Brandon from Warner Robins

September 28th, 2009
7:11 pm

that shoud say crowd. geez.

Mark Bradley

September 28th, 2009
7:11 pm

Chris Coghlan singles to lead off the game. If you had Chris Coghlan in the no-hit pool, you’re a winner.

Jim Grogan

September 28th, 2009
7:12 pm

WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’ve been a Braves fan since their first season. In those days the Center Field bleacher seats were a BUCK!! I’m pulling for this team and for Bobby Cox!! Wouldn’t it be something to win a World Series with this team!!!

Nova Scotia Steve - Fight Like A Brave

September 28th, 2009
7:12 pm

Can’t believe folks aren’t rally around this team….where is everyone at the Ted?

matt-t

September 28th, 2009
7:12 pm

This late season push has been awesome, but being this close makes one wonder what woulda been had Hanson started the year with the club and not Jo Jo ‘automatic loss’ Reyes.

But hopefully after this week that won’t be a worry

NCBravesFan

September 28th, 2009
7:12 pm

Mark: I’m gonna cheer ‘em as long as they are in it, and thank ‘em when it’s over – whether that’s this week or sometime later.

The parallels to the 1990s are so apt here – the Braves pitching this month has really helped to keep the team rolling.

This Florida team really scares me – they’ll be fighting to stay alive and fighting to take the Braves down a notch or three.

Let’s go Braves!

Nova Scotia Steve - Fight Like A Brave

September 28th, 2009
7:13 pm

That was almost in no man’s land…thank God it wasn’t fair…

Marc from FL

September 28th, 2009
7:13 pm

This blog was just an excuse for MB to go to a company paid ballgame. CAUGHT YOU!

And yes, I believe in this team, I was lost but now I am found, go Braves!

Mark Bradley

September 28th, 2009
7:13 pm

Good crowd on hand. Not.

Nova Scotia Steve - Fight Like A Brave

September 28th, 2009
7:15 pm

Glad to have you there Mark!

Nova Scotia Steve - Fight Like A Brave

September 28th, 2009
7:16 pm

Pretty damn quiet there

Mark Bradley

September 28th, 2009
7:16 pm

Jurrjens strikes out Jorge Cantu to end the frame. Or the half-frame.

Chris

September 28th, 2009
7:16 pm

I believe in the players but not in cox. Braves had a runner on 3rd yesterday with 1 out late in the game, and who does cox put in the game to pinch hit? Yep, greg norton. I havnt seen that dude hit a ball out of the infield all year. I’ll keep up with the score but I’m not watching the games, cox drives me nuts.

Marc from FL

September 28th, 2009
7:16 pm

I haven’t lived in GA for a while and haven’t been on the Marta in even longer. Does it go by the park? I was in DC a few months ago on vacation and went to a couple Braves games up there – it was pretty stress free with the train going right by the park.

Jim Grogan

September 28th, 2009
7:17 pm

I’m watching the game in Florida and listening to the Marlins announcers. Interestingly they are very high on the Braves, their current spectacular play, and how Jair Jurrgins might well should be the starter in a playoff series. Nice problem to have…choosing from the Braves starters. Interesting how Derek Lowe would be long relief in the bull pen. Looking to the off season, Mark, who’s going to get traded for the big bat??

Marc from FL

September 28th, 2009
7:18 pm

Jim, I have to watch the Marlins/Rays feeds as well, and like the Marlins announcers. They’re a very fair duo and don’t have any annoying accents or anything like all those west-coast guys.

Nova Scotia Steve - Fight Like A Brave

September 28th, 2009
7:18 pm

Mark…You should take it upon yourself to tear a strip of Atlanta Braves fans….David Justice style.

Chipper Jones even pleaded for the fans too come out after the win in Washington yesterday.

Guess people in ATL are too concerned about the Braves

JM

September 28th, 2009
7:18 pm

Very disappointing crowd. Lord knows I’d be there if I could. Wake up, Atlanta.

Nova Scotia Steve - Fight Like A Brave

September 28th, 2009
7:19 pm

I would be too JM

brewdawg

September 28th, 2009
7:19 pm

Well Mark, your 7:10 pretty much did it for the Braves. You couldn’t resist a prediction could you? You just couldn’t.

Mark Bradley

September 28th, 2009
7:20 pm

McLouth walks and takes second. The running Braves!

Luke

September 28th, 2009
7:20 pm

Way to start in Nate

Chris

September 28th, 2009
7:21 pm

It’d be cheaper to go to a game if they weren’t burning 15 million a year on lowe and 8 million on kawakami.

Mark Bradley

September 28th, 2009
7:22 pm

Let the record reflect that yours truly forecast a wild-card berth for this team before the season began. Now, would I have forecast the same a week ago? Heck no.

Traver

September 28th, 2009
7:22 pm

Regardless of what happens, you gotta love the push. They haven’t quit and if they make it they will be a tough out of the playoffs with that pitching staff. If they don’t, the outlook on next year is very good.

I think it will take 6-1 to get in. Rockies will take 2 of 3 from Brewers and lose 2 of 3 to LA

Nova Scotia Steve - Fight Like A Brave

September 28th, 2009
7:22 pm

You can get good tickets for $10-15 bucks…prolly even cheaper

Mark Bradley

September 28th, 2009
7:23 pm

Anibal Sanchez: 10 pitches, nine balls.

Traver

September 28th, 2009
7:23 pm

Alll I can say about the crowd is I would be there if I didn’t live 4 hours away. Come one ATL get with it.

Mark Bradley

September 28th, 2009
7:25 pm

Bases loaded. No outs. Sanchez has walked the ballpark.

Marc from FL

September 28th, 2009
7:25 pm

This Annibal guy threw a no-hitter a couple years ago right?

gcs

September 28th, 2009
7:25 pm

Ryan Church has not played much lately. Is he injured?

Traver

September 28th, 2009
7:25 pm

Anybody remember winning 13 straight in 82? Lets do that again!!

Mark Bradley

September 28th, 2009
7:27 pm

1-0 Braves. McCann with a groundout and an RBI. First ball put in play. Perhaps the last.

Mark Bradley

September 28th, 2009
7:27 pm

2-0. Garret Anderson lines out to center. Prado tags and scores.

Mark Bradley

September 28th, 2009
7:29 pm

Sanchez walks three, yields two runs. Not the big inning it might have been, but a good start all the same.

Mark Bradley

September 28th, 2009
7:30 pm

Sanchez threw a no-hitter in 2006. He walked 12 that night. (Kidding.)

Mike B

September 28th, 2009
7:31 pm

Nice to see Jurrjens staked to an early lead. Go Braves!

Mark Bradley

September 28th, 2009
7:31 pm

Ryan Church isn’t hurt. Cox simply prefers Matt Diaz at present.

Traver

September 28th, 2009
7:32 pm

There is your 2 runs Jurrjens. Go get em’

Nova Scotia Steve - Fight Like A Brave

September 28th, 2009
7:33 pm

uuhh ohhhh…..What’s goin on here

Marc from FL

September 28th, 2009
7:33 pm

Wow, to have two bobbles on that play it ended up being close, it’s ok, JJ means business tonight. *In a Tom Hanks voice* we’re gonna win, We’re Gonna Win!!

Nova Scotia Steve - Fight Like A Brave

September 28th, 2009
7:34 pm

So I’ll be back in 5 minutes….gotta change my underwear