Looking on the bright side — and even finding a bright side takes concentrated effort — there’s this: If any team in the history of baseball knows how to win the 162nd game of a season behind Tim Hudson after losing two to the Phillies and entering Game No. 162 tied for the wild card after blowing a massive lead … well, the Braves are that team. Because they did it last season.
And that’s it. That’s all I’ve got. Rating the collapses, this season’s is much worse than last’s. The 2010 Braves ran out of everyday players; the 2011 Braves have run low on starting pitchers. Last year’s team had a hard time scoring for a pretty good reason; this team has a hard time scoring for no good reason.
Last year’s Braves lost a seven-game division lead because the Phillies got hot and got healthy (and got Roy Oswalt) and blew past them. This team has lost an 8 1/2-game wild-card lead to St. Louis, which was hot but is only 3-3 over the past six days and needed 23 players, eight of them pitchers, to override a five-run deficit against the 100-loss Astros on Tuesday.
So: Here we go again. One more game on the schedule, one game to assure these Braves of playing at least one more game after this.
About the Cardinals: You’d have to think Chris Carpenter will win at Minute Maid Park tonight, but you’d have thought Carpenter would have beaten the Cubs on Friday and he could not. Carpenter was pulled after 93 pitchers for a pinch-hitter in a 1-1 game; the Cardinals yielded Alfonso Soriano’s winning three-run homer the next inning.
That Redbird loss pushed the Braves’ lead back to three games with five to play. They haven’t held it. Now they could face elimination if they don’t win tonight, but the way this stumbling chase is going they might lose to Philly and still get to play in St. Louis on Thursday. Indeed, for an hour or so Tuesday night it appeared the Braves — who trailed 7-0 — might take the wild card without actually winning another game. But the Cardinals rallied from 5-0 and 6-5 deficits, and here we are. Again.
Tim Hudson in the 162nd game. A team could do worse. For example: Derek Lowe in the 161st game — that was worse.
By Mark Bradley