If the Braves win today — and they’re playing at an odd time (4:35 p.m.), so affix a Post-It to your computer — they’ll assure themselves of leading the wild-card chase by a full game headed into the season’s final series. And that would be huge, given that San Francisco and San Diego play one another this weekend.
The Padres are a game and a half behind the Braves as we speak, but San Diego plays tonight and again tomorrow. (The Braves are off Thursday.) Were the Braves to lose today, the wild card could be a dead heat with three games left. Lose today and it would be possible for both the Giants and the Padres to make the playoffs (one as the winner of the National League West) ahead of the Braves.
Even if the Braves win today, they could still miss the playoffs — but they’d have to get swept by the Phillies, who will surely be playing their J.V. squad this weekend, to do it. If the Braves win today and take one game from the Phils, they’ll finish 91-71. If the Padres win their remaining five games, they’d finish 92-70 … but the Giants, provided they win the next two against Arizona before losing the final three against San Diego, would finish 91-71. (Which would mean the Braves would be playing San Fran here Monday in a one-game playoff for the wild card.)
Long story short: Win today and the Braves would be almost there. And who’s pitching? Why, Derek Lowe. And it seems altogether fitting that, in this wildest of seasons, the starting pitcher Braves fans had come to esteem least is now the guy they most want toeing the slab in a big game. Funny old world, isn’t it?