For the Braves, four regular-season dates with Philadelphia remain. They don’t matter. Nothing that happens now will have any impact on October. There’s no “psychological advantage” to be gained by either side — this is baseball, where everything starts anew the next day — and there’s no realistic way the Braves can catch the Phillies to claim the National League’s top seed. All the Braves can do these next three weeks is try to get healthy.
And try to prepare themselves for Milwaukee. In October, the Brewers figure to come first.
The National League playoff grid has been all but set for a while: The Phillies will play Arizona, which trails the Brewers by 3 1/2 games in the overall league standings, in the Division Series, while the Braves get Milwaukee.The Brewers shouldn’t be taken lightly. They can hit — they’ve out-homered the Braves, which only one other NL club has done — and their pitching has been the best in baseball since the All-Star break.
That’s correct. Better than Philly’s. Better than San Fran’s. Better than the Braves’ by a full earned run a game. The Brewers’ post-All Star ERA is 2.89 to Atlanta’s 3.90.
Given the depleted state of the Braves’ rotation — Tommy Hanson is still on the disabled list, and Jair Jurrjens might not be ready when the postseason begins — the Brewers’ starting now appear the more solid bunch.Yovani Gallardo, Zach Greinke, Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf aren’t to be confused with Halladay, Hamels, Lee and Oswalt, but who is? Each of those four Brewers has won at least a dozen games, and each has an ERA of 4.00 or better.
With Hanson and Jurrjens in flux, the Brewers have the better rotation. The Braves stand to have the edge in the bullpen, but if you’re down 5-1 after six innings the bullpen won’t matter much. And there’s one thing more.
Games 1, 2 and 5 of the best-of-five will be played in Milwaukee. The Brewers have the best home record in baseball. (They’re below .500 on the road, though.) Of all teams, the Braves should know that home-field advantage in October isn’t always an advantage — from 2002 through 2005, they lost four consecutive Division Series in which they held the supposed home-field edge — but the relative brevity of the Division Series leaves less room to recover. Fall behind 2-0 and you’re facing elimination.
At full capacity, these Braves would be a difficult postseason opponent for any club, Philadelphia included. Without Jurrjens and/or Hanson, their capacity would be greatly diminished. Owing to the odd nature of the National League standings, September has been rendered essentially another round of exhibition games. Winning now is of no real importance. All that matters is that a team get in position to win later.
By Mark Bradley