The Braves’ lead has been squandered. What happens now?

You know the lead? The one I insisted they wouldn’t squander?

They’ve squandered it.

The Braves held first place in the NL East from Memorial Day through Labor Day, but they hold it no more. They spit the bit, as we say in horse country, on a wretched night in Pittsburgh where it rained buckets and even Tim Hudson couldn’t hold the line against the worst team in the major leagues.

After 99 days in first place, they now stare up at the Phillies. As of 10:26 p.m. Tuesday, the Braves went from leading the East to leading the National League wild card chase, and that’s not a bad thing in itself. What’s troubling, alas, is how horribly the Braves are playing.

Rick Ankiel has done nothing. Nate McLouth continues to do nothing. Derrek Lee has done next to nothing. Troy Glaus hasn’t done much since June. Those four men staff two fairly key positions,  and at this late date you have to wonder: Would moving Melky Cabrera to center and the kid Freddie Freeman into a starting role at first base have a deleterious effect on a team that can’t score to begin with?

Understand: The Braves have 23 games remaining and are a half-game back of the Phils. That’s not exactly an insurmountable lead. But being ahead was important for these Braves, constructed as they are of kids and retreads and a precious few big-timers. The Phillies are shooting for a fourth consecutive division title, and they see it as their birthright. The Braves had cause to believe as long as they were ahead of Philly — as David Ross said last month: “It’s better to be the team being chased than the one doing the chasing” — but now they’re the club that needs to hop on its horse.

There’s no Chipper Jones to win this division the way he did in 1999. There are only two holdovers of uninterrupted Braves service — Brian McCann and Tim Hudson — to the last division title annexed by the local nine. When you’ve led this long and you lead no more, it’s human nature to doubt. But the Braves have fought through so much already that there’s no reason they can’t fight through this.

Yes, the Braves have lost two in a row to Pittsburgh, but it wasn’t so long ago — two weeks — that the Phillies lost four straight at home to the sub-.500 Astros. Then they went on the road and won five of six from San Diego and L.A. That’s what a big-time team does. It gathers itself and hits back harder. We’re about to see how hard the Braves can hit back.

493 comments Add your comment

Aaron

September 7th, 2010
10:45 pm

No one deserves to be first tonight. First is for winners.

GTHorsie

September 7th, 2010
10:47 pm

I blame you, MB.

Aaron

September 7th, 2010
10:47 pm

Six games left against the Phills. Plenty of time.

Aaron

September 7th, 2010
10:48 pm

Good thing no one posted FIRST!!! No one deserves to be first tonight. First is for winners.

CSpin

September 7th, 2010
10:49 pm

cattle dawg

September 7th, 2010
10:50 pm

Its that dang sasquatch I tell ya.

Heath

September 7th, 2010
10:51 pm

It’s all Mark Richt’s fault.

sid's bream

September 7th, 2010
10:52 pm

let’s see how long it takes to lose the wild card lead.
playing like this, it won’t take long.

SRF

September 7th, 2010
10:53 pm

DONE – OVER – GONE – EPIC FAIL

sid's bream

September 7th, 2010
10:54 pm

@ Aaron
I hate to say it, but so far, time has been working against these braves.

Aaron

September 7th, 2010
10:56 pm

Still have an 8% better chance at the playoffs than the Phills according to coolstandings.com. While I am not happy, I am still not worried.

Focus on the positive. If the Atlanta Dream can make the finals, anything is possible.

Boatdoc

September 7th, 2010
10:56 pm

“Would moving Melky Cabrera to center and the kid Freddie Freeman into a starting role at first base have a deleterious effect on a team that can’t score to begin with?”

Anyone know where the Braves rank in the NL in runs scored?

Anyone?

Second.

The sky is not falling.

William

September 7th, 2010
10:56 pm

It’s not over till it’s over. The fat lady hasn’t sung and other cliches.

robdawg08

September 7th, 2010
10:57 pm

I’m worried about the Marlins now. The Braves offense is pukable (new word).

Jeff

September 7th, 2010
10:57 pm

I am surprised it took us this long. We have a pieced together line up with young guys and washed up guys. The Phillies have a good line up that is built to win now. Until Liberty Media decides to spend money on quality stars we will continue to be 2nd to the Phillies.

Cornfuzed

September 7th, 2010
10:57 pm

I say play Melky full-time in CF. McLouth and Ankiel are disasters. At least we get something from Melky, and that also gives Diaz/Hinske more at bats.
I’m starting to wonder if we will make the playoffs only to get swept in the first round.

chas

September 7th, 2010
10:58 pm

Play someone else at first. D Lee has no power left. I don’t know what sort of nonsense was going on when he hit 4 homers in 3 games before he was traded. If anyone is worried that Freeman is too young to start would you say the same about Jason Heyward? Was Poison Avery too young to start in the NLCS?

todd

September 7th, 2010
10:58 pm

When you have 2 positions – first and center field that you can count on to always make an out you are doomed. Our hopes are that Freeman can take over first and they find a decent center fielder.

SRF

September 7th, 2010
10:58 pm

The only way these braves see the playoffs is to buy a ticket in the cheap seats like the rest of us…

Damon Evans

September 7th, 2010
10:58 pm

Thoughtful

September 7th, 2010
10:58 pm

How ’bout those Falcons?
[Ok not the same rng as Cowboys but it's all I've got now that the Phillies own the division!]

Damon Evans

September 7th, 2010
10:59 pm

woodie

September 7th, 2010
11:00 pm

Too many flaws with this team in my opinion but what do I know ?

robdawg08

September 7th, 2010
11:00 pm

Duke will look like Sandy Koufax tomorrow with his 7-12 record.

SRF

September 7th, 2010
11:00 pm

I just hope none of the Braves stinky loser mojo rubs onto the Falcons

James

September 7th, 2010
11:01 pm

Braves have to win every home game from here on out to even have a chance at the playoffs. They are losing every road game from here on out. Regardless this team just make me sick Nobody on the team has any interest in playing 110%. This entire team is filled with castoffs,losers and chokers. That is a bad mofo combo.

BugKiller

September 7th, 2010
11:02 pm

Bobby Cox: The Soft Willie Martinez of baseball managers.

Sad but true.

Since Bobby became the Braves manager, the team has choked away an unprecedented number of postseason appearances.

NO team in pro sports history has had that many appearances in the postseason without less than 2 titles.

The way Bobby Cox manages in the postseason is the epitome of Einstein’s definition of insanity:

Doing the same thing over and over again, in the exact same way every time, yet expecting a different result.

So thanks, Bobby. Any other manager, and the Braves are one of the greatest teams in baseball history with multiple titles in the 90’s.

Proof that Bobby Cox is the most overrated manager in baseball history?

In the time when the Braves were happy with winning “division” titles, the Florida Marlins won TWO World Series (one more than the exalted Cox) as the Wild Card.

So good riddance, Bobby. Any other manager gives this team a better shot at winning when it matters most.

In ANY other city that actually cares about baseball, Cox would have been fired after the 1996 World Series debacle.

And that’s the TRUTH.

SRF

September 7th, 2010
11:02 pm

Boise State could beat the Braves…

robdawg08

September 7th, 2010
11:03 pm

McDonald was a recent pickup from the Dodgers. So Braves get mashed by a fledgling pitcher ? Damn…

kazoo

September 7th, 2010
11:04 pm

The Braves are in free-fall. You just can’t lose back-to-back games to the pirates at this point in the season, after losing series to the rockies and marlins. The pitching staff needs to come through, or that ’s what the braves will be–through.

SRF

September 7th, 2010
11:04 pm

After they miss the playoffs – I bet Bobby will “unretire” – cause it would just be a “dadgum shame to go out like that”

@ Boatdoc

September 7th, 2010
11:04 pm

second in runs scored for the season? that and a quarter will get you a cup of coffee. That stat doesn’t mean a thing. When the braves score 16 runs for a couple of games and get shut out or score very little for others their runs scored may be up but the wins sure aren’t. For most of the second half, and on more nights than not, this lineup has no punch.

joe

September 7th, 2010
11:05 pm

they’re done….

Barack Obama

September 7th, 2010
11:06 pm

It’s G.W. Bush’s and the Republican’s fault.

Dan

September 7th, 2010
11:07 pm

Shut up Mark!

Wrenmeadeal

September 7th, 2010
11:07 pm

Any one else believe this is all Frank Wrens fault??? Every deal he has made has been a disaster. Wreeeeeeeeeeeeen!!!!!

@ kazoo

September 7th, 2010
11:08 pm

sure the pitching is slipping, but what’s worse is the complete lack of offense. The phillies gave up more runs than the braves tonight (7), but they still won. We can’t score more than 1 stinking run against the pirates in two game. Thats pathetic.

Texas Braves Fan

September 7th, 2010
11:08 pm

I can smell the dead, rotting offense of the Braves all the way in Dallas!!!!!!!!!!!

SRF

September 7th, 2010
11:08 pm

Man that GW is all over the place

gadawgs

September 7th, 2010
11:09 pm

That’s ok football started this past weekend.

Ryan

September 7th, 2010
11:09 pm

All I can say is I’m glad football season is starting up. Pitchers for the past two days had roughly a 6.00 ERA against other clubs, but a minuscule 0.50 ERA against the meager Braves. Maybe we should have let the Gwinett Braves bat the past few days – they would have probably done more damage. So of the Pirates 139 games this year guess how many times they’ve allowed 1 or fewer runs over 18 consecutive innings????? That’s right, once, one lousy time against the Braves vaunted offense.

What a joke! Even if they win the WC – their still one a and done with their crummy road record.

SRF

September 7th, 2010
11:10 pm

oh yeah – if there was no football I would be really bummed – as it is, I can just laugh at the Bad News Braves

Mitchell

September 7th, 2010
11:11 pm

BugKiller, you killed it.

Great post.

Ron Roberts

September 7th, 2010
11:13 pm

Sure, BoatDoc, we’re 2nd in runs scored, because we win games 16-5 then turnaround and lose 2-0.

Coach (2011 or Bust)

September 7th, 2010
11:13 pm

BugKiller, if Cox had been managing in NY, Boston, LA or any other team that gave a damn about the post season……..

Bobby would have been canned after losing back to back WS in 1991-1992, and most definitely should have been fired after getting swept in 1999 WS. But not in Atlanta, the city that Sherman burned to the ground, the same city which has one single championship in Football, baseball, basketball and hockey combined.

Atty Tude

September 7th, 2010
11:13 pm

TP’s got us taking pitches to run the pitch count up on the opposing starter – rather than – going out and aggressively battling. Several Braves hitters (D. Lee in particular) are watching too many middle of the plate fast balls go by. We gotta jump ‘em early and abandon this nonsense of outlasting the starter and hoping to catch fire late.

Need a new Atty Tude. Go Braves!

CSpin

September 7th, 2010
11:13 pm

Excuse me while I barPH

@ Texas Braves Fan

September 7th, 2010
11:14 pm

Hey!! I’m in Texas too!! Weird..
I traveled all the way out there a little over a week ago to watch them hang 13 on the Marlins and see Huddy break his personal strikeout record.
and i agree– the smell has carried this far.

Mathman

September 7th, 2010
11:14 pm

Need to turn 1B over to Freeman against righties. Bring up Canizares. Put Hinske in LF against righties. Put Infante in CF against everyone. Don’t bench McCann against Duke. Bobby probably will. Maybe see what Hernandez and Conrad can do at 2B.

Bobby has blown another one. Remember they were in the wildcard hunt last Septemter and lost about 6 in a row, mostly to the Nationals.

Hit and Run. Bobby. Now repeat. Hit and Run. Opens some holes. Bobby still hopes for the 3 run HR. Thank God he is retiring.

Jamess

September 7th, 2010
11:14 pm

Braves can’t even beat the Pirates one of the worst teams in baseball that’s embarrassing. They should have swept the Pirates cause they play 4 against STL next those games are going to be tough.