Does this portion of the schedule still elicit optimism?
The Braves are about to embark on that portion of their schedule that looked so appealing as recently as Thursday, when there was still seemingly some reason to feel optimistic about their postseason hopes.
Mathematically the Braves are still alive and while closing the season against the Nationals (seven games), Mets (three games) and Marlins (three games), they certainly have the chance to finish the season in impressive fashion.
But while losing two of three to the Phillies this past weekend, the Braves fell 5 ½ games behind the Rockies in the National League Wild Card race and seemingly lost the opportunity to fully take advantage of the schedule that awaits them.
Trying to keep things positive after Sunday afternoon’s loss, Chipper Jones said that teams there are a number of instances throughout the season when clubs lose five and six games in a row.
Well over the past month, the Rockies have encountered two lengthy skids that didn’t prove devastating to their postseason hopes. While Colorado lost five straight from Aug. 26-30, the Braves gained two games and moved to within 3 ½ games of the Wild Card’s top spot.
When the Rockies lost four straight from Sept. 12-15, the Braves gained 3 ½ games and still found themselves five games back and further lamenting what they’d squandered during the first week of this month, when they squandered two sixth-inning leads against the Marlins and then got swept at home by the Reds.
While the postseason aspirations are now truly hanging by a thread, the next couple of weeks should prove to be interesting for the Braves, who within the next week could learn whether Bobby Cox has decided to return to serve as their manager for at least one more season.
Escobar’s removal: It was somewhat surprising to see Cox remove Yunel Escobar from Friday night’s game after the shortstop made the fatal mistake of jogging toward first base in the same manner that Garret Anderson and many of the games other veteran do on a regular basis.
Less than an hour earlier, I was telling a scout about how much better Escobar’s attitude had been. Since his “talk to me when I get three hits” episode right after the All-Star break, he’s actually been pretty easy to deal with. More importantly, he was seemingly smiling and interacting with his teammates more in the clubhouse.
During Thursday night’s game when he had slid in ahead of a tag at the plate and was ruled out, Escobar probably shouldn’t have shown up umpire Dan Iassogna by pointing toward Martin Prado and asking his opinion. But at the same time, I thought the Braves shortstop displayed his improved maturity when he didn’t react when Iassogna was seemingly baiting him to say something to him.
Still even with all of the access that I get to the club, I still don’t see everything that evolves in that clubhouse. Thus I have to think that Escobar’s removal from Friday’s game was based on something more than his decision to lackadaisically move toward first base.
There are still occasions when Escobar proves to be melodramatic. The latest instance occurred on Saturday night, when he got hit in the left arm with Pedro Martinez’s 71 mph curveball and then remained on the ground before looking into the Braves dugout to see if the trainers were going to come out to check on him.
It was quite obvious that Escobar didn’t gain any additional supporters in the Braves clubhouse on Sunday, when he revealed that the damage created by this slow curve was going to prevent him from playing in the series finale against the Phillies.
LaRoche returns: Adam LaRoche arrived at Citi Field today and told Cox that he was ready to return to action. LaRoche is still feeling some discomfort in the middle of his back when he begins to swing.