Braves look to end horrors at Nationals Park
So you’re saying they’ve got a chance? Yeah, I know Mathew McConaughey also sounded a lot better when he said something similar in Dazed and Confused.
The Braves have gained four games on the Rockies over the course of the past 10 games played by both teams and if they can gain this same margin over the course of their final 10 games, they’ll enter the postseason with a survivalist’s momentum for the first time since 1993.
While winning their 14 consecutive division titles from 1991-2005, the Braves often cruised into the the first round of the playoffs. During the 2000 and ’01 seasons, they didn’t clinch until the season’s final weekend.
But this year, like in 1991 and ’93, it looks like there will be a chance for them to actually enter the 162nd game of the season in must-win mode. Currently scheduled to start the season finale against the Nationals at Turner Field, Tim Hudson may have a chance to truly make his mark after spending the majority of this year rehabbing from elbow reconstruction surgery.
Obviously, the Braves are going to need a little assistance from the Rockies to gain this opportunity. But when you look at the remaining schedules that both teams will have to navigate, you have to think we’ll at least go into next weekend still feeling like the Braves have a chance.
Of course if the Braves were to continue their struggles at Nationals Park this weekend, they may just want to walk down the street to the Smithsonian and place their season among their other items that are now tagged as “history”.
The struggles the Braves have experienced in D.C. the past two years are absolutely mind-boggling. They’ve gone 4-11 at Nationals Park and won just two of their past 12 games there.
Since moving out of RFK, which stood for “The Only NL East Stadium worse than Shea”, the Nationals have gone 64-91 at home. Take away those 15 games against the Braves and they’ve compiled a .379 winning percentage at their new park.
The Nationals opened Nationals Park on March 30, 2008 with Ryan Zimmerman’s walk-off homer off Peter Moylan. Over the course of the next two weeks, this would also be the site where Moylan would blow out his elbow and Tom Glavine would incur the hamstring injury that forced him to the disabled list for the first time in his career.
Well this should be enough info to provide you the reminder that Nationals Park has essentially been a house of horrors for the Braves.
If you’re looking for some encouragement, the three worst batting averages produced by Braves players who have had at least 40 plate appearances in D.C. over the past two years are owned by Kelly Johnson (.217), Jeff Francoeur (.184) and Gregor Blanco (.167).
Martin Prado, who scored the ninth-inning, game-tying run as a pinch runner during that March 30, 2008 game, has hit .484 (15-for-31) at Nationals Park. Prado is back in the lineup tonight after missing Wednesday’s game in New York because of a bruised left leg that he suffered courtesy of a batting practice liner off Johnson’s bat.
While the Braves are spending this weekend in D.C., the Rockies will be hosting the Cardinals for a three-game series. In other words, by the time Sunday evening concludes, you have to think there’s a good chance the Braves could be even closer than the 3 1/2 games that seperate them and the front-running Rockies in the National League Wild Card chase.
After attempting to separate themselves from the Marlins during the early portion of next week, the Braves will stay at Turner Field to end their season with a four-game series against the Nationals.
The Rockies will stay at home after this weekend’s series to host the Brewers for a three-game set. They will then travel to Los Angeles for a season-ending, three-game series against a Dodgers club that the Braves can only hope will still be motivated by the opportunity to secure home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
There are still a number of things that have to go right for the Braves. But it’s still nice to know that we may all be able to enjoy the tension and excitement that tight postseason races bring during the season’s final week.
Right move: It will be interesting to see the emotions that Bobby Cox is feeling as we end the 2010 season and he finds himself staring at his approaching retirement. But when the Braves announced Wednesday that next year will be the last of his storied career, Cox seemed to respond with a sense of relief.
Part of his relief stemmed from the fact that he would no longer have to answer our questions about his future. But at the same time, through his words he admitted that he wasn’t going to ever let himself seriously think about retirement until somebody basically talked him into it.
Cox is going to miss the daily stresses that he’s felt as a manager and we’re all going to dearly miss the opportunity to interact on a daily basis with one of the game’s true legends.
But this arrangement will certainly benefit his health and likely provide us all many more years to be enriched by the knowlege of a man who has been the most influential figure in the long history of the Braves organization.
Prospect Watch: This week Baseball America has started revealing the top prospects from each of the leagues in the Minors. Two of their first three selections have been Braves.
Christian Bethancourt, a 17-year-old catcher from Panama, was named the Gulf Coast League’s top prospect. Bethancourt, who you may remamber from the 2004 Little League World Series, was signed for the Braves for $600,000 last year. He’s still developing offensive power, but scouts have been impressed with his arm, which has regularly gotten the ball to second base at a rate of 1.8 seconds.
Highly-regarded right-hander Julio Teheran was named the Appalachian League’s top prospect. Teheran, who signed for $850,000 in 2007, proved he was no longer bothered by the shoulder tendinitis that limited him to 15 innings last year.
During his 14 combined starts with Rookie Level Danville and Class A Rome this year, Teheran worked 96 1/3 innings, registered 84 strikeouts and issued just five walks. The 18-year-old right-hander possess a fastball that rests between 92-96 mph and a plus changeup.
BA will continue to unveil its top prospects from each league over the
next couple of weeks and obviously we’ll soon see Jason Heyward’s name
atop yet another of their lists.
I’m not with the club this weekend. But I’ll check in periodically over the next couple of days.