This being baseball, there are no must-win games in June. There can be, however, need-to-win games. For the Braves, Saturday’s encounter rose to the latter level.
They’d fallen 4 ½ games behind Washington in the National League East and to fourth place in the wild-card standings. They’d followed a 14-15 May with a 12-12 June, which meant they’d been mediocre for two solid months. And here, on the hottest day Hotlanta had ever known, came Stephen Strasburg to bring the big heat.
Strasburg is the best young pitcher in baseball. His opponent was Mike Minor, who had, according to FanGraphs’ Wins Above Replacement index, been the worst starting pitcher in the National League. Seeing those names, the mind ran through a set of chilling calculations: “So Strasburg beats Minor and the Braves are 5 ½ back and they’re facing Gio Gonzalez, who’s 10-3, on Sunday, and this could be out