What will this final week bring?
Usually when I answer the phone, I hear “what’s up” or “hey”. This morning the common greeting has been, “so are they going to do it?”
One witty friend said, “The Braves are trying to out-Rockie the Rockies.”
Obviously he was referencing the 2007 season, when the Rockies won 13 of the final 14 regular season games and forced a one-game playoff with the Padres to determine who would serve as the National League’s Wild Card representative.
Well if the Braves were to remain perfect throughout this final seven-game homestand, which begins tonight against the Marlins, they too will have won 13 of the final 14 games on their 162-game schedule.
Or to localize this achievement, they will have completed a 13-game winning streak that will trump the excitement of the identical one posted by Glenn Hubbard, Dale Murphy and their Braves teammates at the start of the 1982 season.
Joe Torre skippered that bunch to that incredible start and 27 years later, as the Dodgers manager, he finds himself in a position where he could play a very influential role on where the Braves find themselves at the end of another 13-game winning streak.
Nothing has changed on the Braves front. They still must enter every remaining game with the do-or-die mindset that they’d feel if they were down one entering the ninth inning. Even if they were to end the season in perfect fashion, the Rockies could win five of their final six against the Brewers and Dodgers and leave the city of Atlanta wondering “what might have been?”
Things would certainly look a lot better right now had Rockies second baseman Clint Barmes not ventured into shallow right field to make the tremendous catch that started the game-ending double play against the Cardinals yesterday.
As Barmes twisted, turned and tumbled to the ground while making the catch, I wondered if he had looked the same when he broke his collarbone while carrying that deer meat that Todd Helton had given him during the 2005 season.
But more importantly, the immediate thought was how much different would things be if that ball had fallen and the Cardinals had held on to give the Braves a chance to come home facing just a 1 ½-game deficit in the Wild Card standings.
With a 2 1/2-game advantage, the Rockies will close their season with three-game sets against the Brewers and Dodgers.
The Braves have an easier road with a three-game set against the Marlins, who have seen their postseason hopes erased, and a four-game set against the Nationals, who have compiled 103 losses and still not found one to be as embarrassing as the one their Washington D.C. football brothers experienced in Detroit yesterday.
The Brewers have won 11 of their past 17 games, but were swept at home while dropping three straight one-run games to the Rockies in June. The Dodgers have won 12 of 15 against the Rockies this year, but might not have anything to play for by the time they meet them again this weekend.
Even if the Pirates were to hold onto this afternoon’s lead and end up taking three of four from the Dodgers, Torre’s bunch will still head to San Diego tomorrow owning at least a 1 ½-game advantage in the race to gain home field advantage throughout the postseason.
Personally, I think it’s a stretch to think the Dodgers would be motivated this weekend by the opportunity to erase the Rockies and consequently ensure that they won’t have to open the postseason against the Phillies or Cardinals.
n fact, there’s definite reason to believe that given the choice the Dodgers would much rather face either of those two division winners right now instead of the red-hot Braves, who are currently enjoying some of that mojo that helped the Rockies sweep through the Division Series and NL Championship Series in 2007.
Having won 15 of their past 18 games, the Braves have given us a chance to enjoy the tension that makes the regular season’s final week so special.
Now they just have to make sure the Marlins don’t suddenly gain that spoiler magic that has allowed them to erase the Mets from the postseason picture during the previous two seasons.
If they pass the challenge the Marlins will present, the Braves can focus on completing their task against the Nationals, who have been present when the Phillies have celebrated the division titles that they’ve captured during final weekend of the past two seasons.
Whether the Nationals watch a team celebrate for a third consecutive season remains to be seen. But it certainly wouldn’t bother me if I’m still answering the phone on Sunday morning and immediately hearing, “So are they going to do it?”