Live from the Braves: A race tightens, but they’re not tight

Reader Tim Williams supplied this logo. I offer it for purposes of amusement.

Reader Tim Williams, who's an illustrator, supplied this updated logo. I offer it for purposes of amusement only.

Brian McCann had a question for your apparently skittish correspondent. “Are you panicking?” he said. “Don’t be panicking on us.”

Let the record also reflect that Mr. McCann was smiling as he spoke. The wild-card race has tightened, but nobody could describe these Braves as tight. Recent reversals notwithstanding, they believe they’re going to win.

Said McCann, more seriously now: “If you’d told us in spring training we’d be 4 1/2 up with two weeks to go, we’d have taken it. Every team in baseball would have taken it. We’re fine. Nobody’s panicking.”

(About which, a digression. In the history of sports coverage, has any athlete/manager/coach ever responded to the question, “Are you panicking?” in the affirmative? Did Gene Mauch, who went to a two-man rotation of Jim Bunning and Chris Short during the infamous Philly Phlop of 1964, admit his panicky move was a panicky move? To panic is to run around like a roaring chicken, and who’s going to admit to that?)

We mention the Philly Phlop because it remains the fool’s-good standard for baseball collapses: Twelve games to go, 6 1/2 games in front, whoops! If these Braves endeavor to miss the postseason, they’ll warrant a lasting place on that same bottom shelf. They led by 8 1/2 games with 22 to play, and entering play Monday night they lead by 4 1/2 with 15 remaining. They hadn’t been swept in a series all season, and they got swept twice in one week, the second coming in the one place they couldn’t afford to get swept.

Had the Braves won just once in St. Louis over the weekend, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. That once should have come Friday night, but the great Craig Kimbrel blew his first save since June 8 as the even greater Albert Pujols tied matters with two out in the ninth. Winning then would have pushed the lead back to 8 1/2 games and spared everyone the need to inquire about panic.

Said McCann: “It just happens … you can’t explain it.”

It does, and you can’t. This season has been almost numbing in its overall consistency (if not its details). The Braves settled in behind Philadelphia in April and have stayed there, which is no disgrace, and for much of that time they held the second-best record in the National League. It’s rare that a wild-card race becomes a runaway, but the Braves came close to rendering it one. And then two starting pitchers got hurt and some guys stopped hitting and they haven’t run quite so fast.

That said, all is not nearly lost. “I’m very positive,” said Frank Wren, the general manager. “We have a good team.”

Did the thought of starting three rookie pitchers — Brandon Beachy, Mike Minor and Randall Delgado — in what’s now a significant series against Florida worry the GM? “We threw four rookies in a row in games last week, and they all threw great,” Wren said. “They’re all capable of winning games.”

McCann: “They’re top-of-the-line rookies. They’re the best prospects in the minor leagues, and they’re all in our organization. We’re very fortunate to have them at our disposal.”

Wren’s take on the slide that had seen the Braves lose eight of 11: “We’ve been a little off since the hurricane [the storm that yielded consecutive rainouts in New York on Aug. 27 and 28].”

Is there a way to get back “on”? Yeah. Go out and win games. Twelve of the remaining 15 games will come against sub-.500 opponents, and the season concludes with three games against the Phillies, who’ll be resting people. There’s still no reason to think the Braves can’t and won’t be playing in October.

And if they get there, these palpitations shouldn’t be seen as a reason they can’t stick around awhile. In 2005 the White Sox watched a 9 1/2-game lead on Sept. 8 shrink to 1 1/2 games with eight to play. They steadied the final week and went 11-1 in postseason, and the reason a lot of  baseball folks gave as to why Chicago was so dominant en route to its World Series title?

Because it forced itself to tend to business at the shank of September and thereby entered the playoffs at full gallop. Which is another way of saying what baseball folks say all the time: This can be a funny old game.

Oh, and for the record: I’m not panicking, Mr. McCann. I have every confidence in you and yours.

And with that, the floor is open once more for questions, comments and salient observations. I know from experience that you folks are able and willing to provide all of the above, and I’d be obliged if you did it tonight. And I thank you, as ever, in advance.

By Mark Bradley

448 comments Add your comment

Benjamin [Atlanta, Ga]

September 12th, 2011
6:44 pm

First on Facebook AND here? Who knew?

Benjamin [Atlanta, Ga]

September 12th, 2011
6:45 pm

And while twelve of those games include sub-.500 teams, one of those teams is the Nationals, who play like the ‘27 Yankees [...or at least the '94 Expos] every time they encounter a team with tomahawks on their chest.

Mark Bradley

September 12th, 2011
6:45 pm

I knew, Benjamin. Kudos.

Matt

September 12th, 2011
6:51 pm

Everyone needs to just calm down. 4 game lead in the loss column with 2 weeks left is fine. The Cards have to play the Phils 4 times, and we have the Marlins and Mets. No reason to panic …. yet.

Taylor

September 12th, 2011
6:59 pm

Braves and Cardinals’ remaining schedules are very similar. We played better than them all season and dammit we intend to continue to do so

Joseph

September 12th, 2011
7:02 pm

Nice pic Mark

joey

September 12th, 2011
7:02 pm

The Braves and all of their blog-reading followers are being very un-Dude. Everybody, be cool.

Mark Bradley

September 12th, 2011
7:03 pm

I found it amusing, Joseph.

joey

September 12th, 2011
7:03 pm

I second that on the pic. And no, we’re not the same person

Mark Bradley

September 12th, 2011
7:12 pm

Anytime I can amuse Joseph and Joey on the same night, I consider it a victory.

Shouldn't you be picking a fight with Coach Richt

September 12th, 2011
7:12 pm

Richt is easy prey Bradley—you might be sorry when he is gone. You think you got Hewitt fired and now your sticking the knife in Richt’s back. My best friends are those that support and stand up for you behind your back win or lose.

Stick to journalism my friend

Nerdbucket Moylan

September 12th, 2011
7:13 pm

I lost my spetacles

Old Blue

September 12th, 2011
7:13 pm

Yikes!! I hit the panic button and it fell on the floor.

Jose

September 12th, 2011
7:13 pm

Mark; Do you know why Constanza has been relegated to the bench over J. Heyward? Do you think that Freddi has heard from the upper management to keep on playing Heyward, so he can hit out of his funk….

Thanks

Mark Bradley

September 12th, 2011
7:16 pm

Uh, oh. Infante with a triple.

Rilo

September 12th, 2011
7:16 pm

no need to panic…it will probably get worse before it gets better so wait until THEN to panic.

Mark Bradley

September 12th, 2011
7:16 pm

I don’t know the answer to the Constanza question. Manager’s decision, as they say.

Nerdbucket Moylan

September 12th, 2011
7:17 pm

what a shame that grumpyface gonzo and his unthinkable garbage .259 obp is back in the lineup. boo

Mark Bradley

September 12th, 2011
7:17 pm

One-nothing, Fish.

Time to panic!

GoAwayLowe

September 12th, 2011
7:17 pm

Love the picture! Laughed out loud. But the way the Braves are playing ball is not a laughing matter. Where can we buy those rose colored glasses?

Mark Bradley

September 12th, 2011
7:17 pm

And the Cardinals likewise lead 1-0.

Old Blue

September 12th, 2011
7:17 pm

Mark. . . it would appear that you are having a kangaroo court with Joey.

Mark Bradley

September 12th, 2011
7:18 pm

Nice line, Old Blue.

Uno

September 12th, 2011
7:19 pm

Ballgame, lol.

Mark Bradley

September 12th, 2011
7:20 pm

Here’s my reason for believing in the Braves: They’ve been a really good team for a really long time. I don’t think they’ll play as badly these next two weeks as they did last week.

And 4 1/2 games is still a pretty healthy lead. Baseball Prospectus’ playoff odds (updated daily) still gives the Braves a 94.4 percent chance of qualifying for postseason.

Rilo

September 12th, 2011
7:21 pm

Yeah…but the “Prospectus” are not Baseball fans.

Rilo

September 12th, 2011
7:22 pm

1-1 Cards/Pirates

Uno

September 12th, 2011
7:23 pm

Mark I do agree with you, I preffer being 4 1/2 up than down, buth with the kind of baseball this guys (the last 4 series with the exception of NY) have been playing lately, I wouldnt bet in that 94.4%.

Mark Bradley

September 12th, 2011
7:24 pm

Michael Bourn with a leadoff single, by the way.

Ron in Vegas

September 12th, 2011
7:24 pm

Cardinals now trailing 2-1 in bottom of 1st

Mark Bradley

September 12th, 2011
7:25 pm

That’s correct. The Cardinals are now in arrears. Which is better than being in the Braves’ rear-view mirror

The Braves aren’t panicking | HardballTalk

September 12th, 2011
7:27 pm

[...] I link it for the illustration by Braves/fan illustrator Tim Williams, who provided a revised Braves logo for the very nervous portion of the season.  And it’s an absolute [...]

Mark Bradley

September 12th, 2011
7:28 pm

Freeman with a single the wrong way. Two on, one down.

Rilo

September 12th, 2011
7:28 pm

Great hit kid! Don’t EVER FREAKIN do it again!! 3-1 reaching for it.

Rilo

September 12th, 2011
7:32 pm

Time to Panic now…McCann is about to be out for a while. Bank on it!

Mark Bradley

September 12th, 2011
7:32 pm

Uggla flies out. McCann pops out. No equalizer for the Bravos.

Mark Bradley

September 12th, 2011
7:37 pm

Leadoff single for Petersen of the Fishies.

01HAWK

September 12th, 2011
7:43 pm

MARK BRADLEY………………………………….Do you think PRADO hustled enough to stop INFANTE from getting a triple ? Seemed to be an ordinary play.

Did INFANTE surprise PRADO by taking off for 3rd base ?

Mark Bradley

September 12th, 2011
7:44 pm

Prado just made a nice catch to end the second. So there.

I don’t think Infante surprised anybody. He ran hard the whole way. And the ball was in the corner.

Boyz From N. Ave.

September 12th, 2011
7:46 pm

I hope we lose our lead and have a playoff with the Cards in which we lose. That way we can expose the fraud that is Freddi G. IMHO we are a Dave Justice home run away from being the Buffalo bills of baseball. Cox squandered more talent than he performed with, and Freddi is just more of the same.

Ron in Vegas

September 12th, 2011
7:46 pm

42 pitches to get through the first two innings. Guess we are looking at another 5 inning start from one of our starters….

Double Zero Eight

September 12th, 2011
7:46 pm

If we get down by three runs, it’s lights out!

Nerdbucket Moylan

September 12th, 2011
7:48 pm

gotta give credit to skipper fredi. he is doing his best effort to make out the lineup card based on obp. booby cox hardly (if ever) batted clipper second. kudos to fredi. although the new skip has taken heat from his SP’s for giving the early yank, his decisions has been the correct calls, considering our record. booby left sp’s in too long, it seemed.
re: heyward. he is a cornerstone player. he needs to be in there. I wish that we could play prado at ss and constanza in left.

Rilo

September 12th, 2011
7:49 pm

Cards have tied it up 2-2

Rilo

September 12th, 2011
7:51 pm

0-3 with runners in scoring position….

01HAWK

September 12th, 2011
7:51 pm

GONZOUT is up to the plate………………………..And to think we traded him for ESCOBAR.

GoAwayLowe

September 12th, 2011
7:54 pm

All Joe and Chip are telling us is how injured the Marlins are. In other words, we can’t seem to even beat their B Team.

Nerdbucket Moylan

September 12th, 2011
7:56 pm

01HAWK: Gonzo shall now be universally known as grumpyface. i like that better than sea bass. Can we get mr. hair highlights back? ill take my chances w mr cuban mgr to calm the attitude

Mark Bradley

September 12th, 2011
8:01 pm

This is not getting any sweeter, folks. Another triple, another run.

Fish with five hits already.

Mark Bradley

September 12th, 2011
8:02 pm

Sixty-two pitches now for Beachy. To get eight outs.