Braves playoff hopes still alive
If the Braves truly were dead after they were swept by the Reds last weekend, then whey I did wake up today and start looking for a pulse, while evaluating their remaining schedule and the ones that await the clubs in front of them in both the National League East and Wild Card standings?
This job calls for me to be more of a realist than an optimist. But now that the Braves have provided reason to wonder courtesy of their 5-1 road trip that concluded with a sweep of the Cardinals, I don’t see the benefit of treating the remainder of the regular season a three-week death march.
Sitting 7 ½ games back in the division and six games back in the Wild Card with just 19 games remaining, the odds of the Braves making the playoffs rival those of Lane Kiffin actually making it throughout this week without saying anything that will further incite the Florida Gators.
But I’m quite certain members of the Philadelphia media were saying something similar when the Phillies were six games back with just 19 games remaining during the 2007 season. Standing at 76-67 at that time, the Phils would go 13-6 down the stretch to overtake the Mets, who went 6-13 during that same stretch.
That year’s version of the Rockies sat 3 ½ games back in the Wild Card standings through 143 games and then managed to win 15 of their final 19 games to set up the one-game playoff with the Padres.
Looking solely at these examples provides further reason to believe the Braves would have to win something like 16 of their remaining 19 games to gain a chance. But really, the only reason I presented these examples was to provide the reminder that crazy things sometimes do occur during the final weeks of the season.
“It’s possible and until we’re mathematically eliminated, we’re going to go out with the feeling that we’ve got a shot,” Chipper Jones said.
Mention of the 2007 season also allowed me to present one of the funnier press box lines that I’ve heard. After Smarty Jones was upset in the Belmont Stakes and lost his bid to complete thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown, one Phillies scribe proclaimed, “Typical Philadelphia athlete.”
Instead of being the chokers, the Phillies were the benefactors of the collapses the Mets experienced the past two seasons. To have any hope of winning the division, the Braves will need to sweep a few of their remaining six series and have the Phils change roles this year.
The Braves benefit from the fact that 13 of their final 19 games are against the Mets and Nationals. But it’s not like they’ve thoroughly dominated either of these two teams – Mets (7-5, Nationals (7-4)– this year.
During their final 18 games of the season, the Marlins are scheduled to play two against the Cardinals, three against the Braves and six against the Phillies. They’re also slated to play four games against the Reds, who have lost six of eight since exiting Turner Field with the sweep.
Further hindering the Braves division hopes is the fact that the Phillies play 11 of their final 20 games against teams that currently have a losing record. The only teams they’ll play with winning records are the Braves and Marlins.
The most encouraging part about the Rockies remaining schedule is that eight of their remaining 17 games will be played against the Cardinals, Giants and Dodgers.
The Braves need the Giants to complete their three-game sweep of the Rockies this week and then fall apart during a 16-game stretch that will include just seven games against teams (Cubs and Dodgers) with a winning record.