Closing in: Next few days could put the Braves over the top

The left side of the infield celebrates a home run. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The left side of the infield celebrates a big home run. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The wild-card chase could, essentially if not quite mathematically, be over by Monday night. The Braves play three games against the Mets here and then head to Miami for a three-game set there. The Cardinals play four games in Philadelphia. Any combination of two Philly victories or Braves’ losses clinches the National League East for the Phillies.

But that’s the catch. The Braves need not to lose these next couple of days so Philadelphia has no cause to rest its starters starting, say, tomorrow and thereby give St. Louis a premature break. If the Braves win the next two and the Cardinals lose the next two, the Braves will lead by 6 1/2 games with 10 to play and the WC race will be all but over.

The Braves had some frazzled moments against the Marlins this week, but they steadied themselves and won two of three. That’s usually what happens in September mismatched matchups: You might struggle but you’re not going to lose the series. When you have a 4 1/2-game lead, you’ll be all right so long as you don’t get swept by somebody. (This only tightened because the Braves got swept in St. Louis, but the lead has held at 4 1/2 since Sunday night.)

The playoff odds, as calculated by Baseball Prospectus, show the Braves with a 96 percent chance of qualifying for the postseason. That’s comforting. Of even greater comfort would be a winning start by Derek Lowe tonight.

If the Braves go 6-6, the Cardinals would have to finish 11-2 just to tie. Should the Braves go 6-6, they’ll also surpass last year’s victory total of 91. This has been too good a season to come undone now. Just a few more days’ work and October will be here. And these Braves will be part of it.

By Mark Bradley

149 comments Add your comment

Djv125

September 16th, 2011
12:02 pm

j

September 16th, 2011
12:02 pm

Mark Bradley

September 16th, 2011
12:04 pm

Djv125 with close-run kudos.

bulldogbubba

September 16th, 2011
12:07 pm

If the theory D.Lowe pitches better in cooler weather, then I am looking for a gem tonight.I just hope the hitters get hot. GO BRAVES!!! GO DAWGS!!!

Ryder

September 16th, 2011
12:09 pm

What’s the status on Tommy Hanson? He will be essential if the Braves plan on making any noise in October. That said, the Braves cannot hope for any help by Philadelphia and need to take care of business this weekend.

wxwax

September 16th, 2011
12:09 pm

The wildcard spot has seemed assured for so long it’s hard to imagine the Braves losing it.

This has been an outstanding season. It’s a pity it happened in the shadow of Philly’s great year.

Bear

September 16th, 2011
12:10 pm

Need to take advantage of these weak teams. Cant understand why the Nats give us fits.

Dennis Reynolds

September 16th, 2011
12:11 pm

Stick to football, Mark. Your baseball articles are useless.

Bill

September 16th, 2011
12:20 pm

Braves will make the play-offs but then what …3 and out!
That seems to be the rule of late. Maybe this time it will be different. I hope!!!!

rip me

September 16th, 2011
12:21 pm

Dennis go back to bed!

Will

September 16th, 2011
12:23 pm

And stick to reading football articles Dennis. You’re baseball posts are useless.

iTiSi

September 16th, 2011
12:26 pm

Somebody has to admit it, so I will. The Braves pitching staff is now in a shambles. With Lowe as a starter, and without Jurrgens and Hanson, there is no way the Braves get thru the first round in the playoffs, IF THEY EVEN GET THERE!!!! Sorry, usually an optimist, but the Braves have turned me into an eternal pessimist!!!!! DYSOBs (different year same old Braves)

Abnerish

September 16th, 2011
12:28 pm

I expect the Braves will get the Mets best this weekend after they got called out by their Manager yesterday. They are not going to be easy to beat.

Booyah

September 16th, 2011
12:34 pm

Booyah says that this should be Lowe’s last start of the year if he is still pitching poorly. Time to turn it over to Huddy and the young guns!

Who cut the cheese uh huh uh huh

September 16th, 2011
12:39 pm

Make the post season just to see them eliminated in the first round.

Abnerish

September 16th, 2011
12:43 pm

I’d rather make the postseason and take my chances than not make it at all. How many Giants fans thought they had a realistic chance to win it all last year? Make the postseason then let’s see what happens.

Chanticleer

September 16th, 2011
12:46 pm

16!!!!!!!!!! I am getting closer! Go Braves.

59bulldawg

September 16th, 2011
12:54 pm

Love the Bravos! But this has been excruciating!

Loosing Managar = Loosing Record

September 16th, 2011
1:02 pm

U wacth. They will blow it and not make the palyoffs!

iTiSi

September 16th, 2011
1:08 pm

MB, you fail to address this scenario everytime you write an article like this, so give us your infinite wisdom. The Braves are only 3 games up(which is not far-fetched) at the start of the last 6 games of the year. The last 6 for the Cards are the Cubs and Astros. Couldn’t be an easier schedule for them. The Braves last 6 are Washington and Philadelphia. Couldn’t be any harder. We all know what the Nats do to Atlanta. Anybody that thinks Philly will lie down against the Braves is dreaming and “whistling Dixie” at the same time. I am Clare Voyant, do have ESP(N) and did stay at a Days Inn Express(close enough) last night, so will predict it will end in a tie for the wildcard and the Braves and Cards have a one game playoff. Braves lose it, and continue to let us down. Sorry!!

Blaze

September 16th, 2011
1:12 pm

We have some negative fans…….these same fans that are saying that the Braves will lose in 3 will be watching the games just like me! Yes I am an optimistic person……but hopefully so is every player in a Braves Uniform. If the players had your attitude what would happen…..YES…..”3 and out”. As for me, I love and understand the game. Not always will the best or even healthiest team win it all. Just take a look at what ABNERISH quoted. I think you guys that are so negative all the time must have had your friends stop listening to you because they were tired of hearing it as well. Yes it is painful to see your team lose. Yes I think the Braves could have and possibly should have won more titles but can’t we just be thankful we have a winning product that has a chance to upset a Goliath of a team called the Phillies. There is a chance. I say a good chance!

leland

September 16th, 2011
1:14 pm

All I want is to be a highly trained professional.

Leland

mortimer

September 16th, 2011
1:16 pm

The Phillies have played 8 games ( while travelling) in the last 7 days coming into the Cardinal series. They are tired and haven’t been hitting but still seem to win with some bench players. The Braves will clinch this weekend.

It's called spell check. Look into it.

September 16th, 2011
1:17 pm

Loosing = losing, managar = manager, U = You, wacth = watch, and palyoffs = playoffs. By the way, the Braves do not have a losing manager, nor do they have a losing record, and they will make the playoffs.

Brett Favre was once a Falcon

September 16th, 2011
1:19 pm

So if my math is correct, we have a 4% chance of NOT making the playoffs?

We are doomed.

Ted M

September 16th, 2011
1:20 pm

Delgado has looked really great…I know he won’t be pitching in the playoffs. That is prob the Braves loss

Loosing Managar = Loosing Record

September 16th, 2011
1:22 pm

Braves will miss the past season mark my words.

Innocent Bystander

September 16th, 2011
1:24 pm

The Baseball Prospectus playoff odds report makes some dangerous assumptions. However, I don’t see the Braves not making it to October. Just don’t go writing an article about how the Braves won’t blow this lead, Mark Bradley.

Matt Ematical

September 16th, 2011
1:24 pm

This is what makes September baseballl so much fun. By my count, if the Braves play .500 ball (6-6), the Cardinals must play .800 (10-2). Or something like that. But as the saying goes; that’s why they don’t play games “on paper”. And, as a fan of baseball first, do you want to see teams limp into the post season, via the backdoor, or do you want a hard-charging, no quit team to take big “mo” into October. if the Braves stick to their knitting and not worry about what happens in Phily, they’ll be fine, and once October begins, it is a brand new, 1 month season.

Packed Colon

September 16th, 2011
1:27 pm

Lot of optimism.

JoeFan

September 16th, 2011
1:32 pm

All the games are critical not just those coming up. If the Braves would play that way then the wildcard race would have already been over.

jarvis

September 16th, 2011
1:33 pm

Cards have Phillies all weekend in Philly. They aren’t going 11-2.

Sonny Clusters

September 16th, 2011
1:33 pm

“We’ve talked about this for years, since I’ve been general manager and even when John [Schuerholz] was, this is the kind of club we aspire to be, which is a speed and defense team that takes extra bases, that runs the bases aggressively, steals bases.” – Frank Wren

Where oh where are you tonight? Why did you leave us here all alone?

We was wondering where is Constanza and why in the world is he not playing? The 3-run home run has been there in the last 2 games but don’t count on it to always be there. Speed never slumps.

jarvis

September 16th, 2011
1:35 pm

@Loosing….lose, loser, and losing all only have one “o”.

It's called spell check. Look into it.

September 16th, 2011
1:41 pm

I already tried to tell him that, Jarvis, but he won’t listen. He already “pasted” another dumb “past” under that misspelled moniker.

Heisenberg

September 16th, 2011
1:41 pm

Gotta get this done so O’VentBrl can be rested.

cristianlobo

September 16th, 2011
1:41 pm

Lowe has had improved control and a better sinker working these past two games. Isn’t a sinker supposed to be more effective in cold air? Sure would be a nice change. We need an able Derek Lowe with all his character and experience for this run. If he does not shoot lights out the rest of the way, though, it might as well be Hudson with a platoon of kids in October. I don’t know how likely it really is that Tommy will be locked and loaded at capacity in time, but what a positive development that would be.

Heisenberg

September 16th, 2011
1:47 pm

ALCS prediction……Texas & Detroit. Neither Yanks nor BoSox (if they even get in) get past ALDS. Need more than 1 arm this time of year. Braves have more than 1 arm and best bullpen. They can compete with anyone in a short series..

matt

September 16th, 2011
1:58 pm

Heisenberg- losing 1-0 is the same as losing 2-1 is the same as losing 9-8. The offense still has to score some runs.

Bernard

September 16th, 2011
2:07 pm

Good luck Braves and Falcons

Bob Davis

September 16th, 2011
2:10 pm

Hey, “Dennis Reynolds,” why are you being so critical of Bradley? I thought he just wrote a darn good article. Try decaff, dude….

joe

September 16th, 2011
2:11 pm

Yes they’ll make the playoffs, but without Tommy and JJ, don’t see them getting past the first round.

Sonny Clusters

September 16th, 2011
2:11 pm

Getting filtered all the time is new for a Clusters. Clusters are used to clicking on “Submit Comment” and a little music plays and you can hear Mark saying, “thank you for your comment.” We was used to that and now our posts get hung up in the filter whether or not we talk deer. We heard the players only meeting was all about deer strategy and deer scent on gloves and balls. It seems to have worked as long as somebody hits a 3-run home run along with it.

yellow britches

September 16th, 2011
2:14 pm

GO JACKETS! Thump Kansas

Stinger2

September 16th, 2011
2:14 pm

By their inconsistent play, the Braves have put themselves in a position they should not be in. Had they not played so poorly against mediocre teams (the NAts, Dodgers,Mets,Cubs they could have already have the WC and could have given the Phils a run for the division title.

DCBrave33

September 16th, 2011
2:16 pm

Hey Mark: Did you happen to see whether or not it is true there is a day off between a game 4 and 5 in the NLDS? If there is (which I saw of the MLB.com postseason schedule) then ONLY Hudson would have to be on 3 days rest for game 4. That would be a nice bonust for us!

bulldogbubba

September 16th, 2011
2:21 pm

Sonny you need your own blog.Will hunting caps be allowed for playoffs? Chipper will feel more comfortable if he had a deer stand in the dugout.It will be October you know.

david

September 16th, 2011
2:25 pm

I agree Abnerish

Go D-Backs

September 16th, 2011
2:31 pm

We’ll make the playoffs. The bigger issue is whether Arizona finishes with a better record than Milwaukee. If so, the Braves play the D-Backs and Phillies have to play the Brewers in a short series. We match-up better against the D-Backs and Brewers have hitting/pitching to compete with Phillies. Go D-Backs.

Tired of Losers

September 16th, 2011
2:36 pm

Oh NO! Lowe pitches tonight.