They trail the Phillies by three games in the National League East. They lead the Giants by a half-game in the wild-card standings, and they could be tied by the close of West Coast business tonight. They’ve lost nine of 14 games. They just lost a home series to the last-place Nationals. And still I believe the Braves will make the playoffs.
Apparently I’m alone in this. (Well, not alone alone. I’m sure Bobby Cox shares my feeling.) But the tenor of the comments on this little blog indicates that the Chance Bros. — Slim and None — have not only left town but fled the country. Nobody likes the Braves anymore because (pick one or more) Cox is a moron andFrank Wren is a moron and Derrek Lee is a has-been and Troy Glaus was a one-month wonder and these players have no heart and would just as soon lose now as lose in the playoffs.
The playoff probabilities on ESPN.com show the Braves, Padres and Giants in a virtual dead heat. (The Braves are at 63.9 percent, down substantially from the 94.3 percent of Labor Day. See what happens when you lose two to the Pirates and then two to the Nats?)
But I am, as we know, a bit different. I still — still, I say — think there’s enough pitching and just enough offense to grind out the wild card. (The NL East is going to be tough. I can’t see the Phillies spitting the bit.) It will come down to the Braves and the second-place club out West, which could be the Padres or the Giants, neither of which hits very much, but it could also be Colorado, which is the scariest team in the world in September.
That said, the Braves are not without resources, limited though they may seem at the moment. They have a fine bullpen. Their rotation had been stalwart all summer until this recent bit of turbulence. They still get enough men on base, although driving them in remains an issue.
Think of it this way: If, on Opening Day, someone had told you, “This team will be a half-game ahead in the wild-card standings with 2 1/2 weeks left,” you’d have taken it, right? Because that would have meant a roster that frankly didn’t look so formidable would have given itself a chance. And that’s what these Braves still have — a chance.
They can’t worry about the Phillies or the lost lead. “We can only look at what’s ahead of us,” Jason Heyward said Wednesday. Going upstairs and seeking further review will not overturn the two losses to the Nats. Not to be pedantic, but the Braves must win as many of these remaining 15 as they can, and 10 ought to do it. (That would leave them with 93 victories, and 93 is essentially the magic number for NL wild-card aspirants.)
Yeah, I hear you. “Win 10 of 15? They couldn’t take two of three from Washington.” And I know it doesn’t look so promising at the moment. But the worst-case scenario is that the Braves will face the Mets on Friday tied for the wild-card lead, and let’s note that the Padres still must face the Cardinals, the Dodgers, the Reds and the Giants; that the Giants must face the Padres and the Rockies, and that Colorado must seek to make up 2 1/2 games on the Braves while facing the Dodgers in two series and the Giants and Cardinals in one each.
Folks, this can still happen. So why do I feel like I’m talking to myself?