Braves fans have already started to panic
With the Braves losing six of their past eight games and the Rockies once again providing reason to wonder if they’re essentially invincible in September, there are a number of Atlanta fans who have already hit the panic button.
This is the expected response from fans when their club begins trending in the wrong direction at the wrong time. But while the Braves have significantly minimized the comfort level that existed just a week ago, they still haven’t lost anything yet.
Yes, they’ve lost the National League East lead that they held from May 31-Sept. 6 – their longest tenure at the top of the division standings since 2003. But as long as they can right their ship soon, they can directly impact their attempt to regain this division lead while playing the Phillies six times over the course of the season’s final 12 games.
And what was a four-game advantage over the Giants last week has been reduced to the one game lead the Braves currently hold in the Wild Card standings. Still despite the fact that the Giants sit in second place in this race, there is seemingly much more reason to be concerned about the Rockies, who have moved to within 3 ½ games of securing the NL’s final postseason spot.
Before beginning their three-game sweep of the Braves on Aug. 23, the Rockies had lost three of four and 10 of their previous 18. Since the start of that three-game series against Atlanta, they have won 13 of 17, with two of the losses coming on the road.
While the Giants certainly stand as a threat to Atlanta’s postseason hopes, the Rockies seem to pose an even greater threat, especially if the Padres continue to fade and allow the Giants to overtake them in the NL West standings.
With that being said, the Rockies could easily emerge victorious in that division race. They have gone 47-22 at Coors Field this year and will play 13 of their final 22 games at home. Among all Major League clubs, their home record has only been topped by the 49-20 mark the Braves have posted at Turner Field this year.
Last night marked just the third time this year that the Braves lost a second consecutive home game. They had won 18 of 25 at Turner Field since last doing so July 16-17 vs. the Brewers. Their only other consecutive home losses occurred April 21 and 22 against the Phillies.
Before embarking on the nine-game road trip that will pit them against the Mets, Phillies and Nationals, the Braves certainly improve their position and psyche if they could at least find a way to win five of the remaining six games of this homestand.
The cards (no pun intended) seemed to be stacked against them tonight, when they will send
Mike Minor to the mound to oppose Chris Carpenter. But even with Roy Halladay drawing his own rookie counterpart in Jenrry Mejia tonight, the Phillies can’t enter tonight’s series opener at Citi Field with overwhelming confidence.
The Phillies have totaled seven runs while winning just two of their previous six games at Citi Field this year. Of course, it should be noted that each of those seven runs were scored during their two most recent games in Queens.
Meanwhile the Rockies will host the D-backs this weekend and the Giants will conclude their four-game series against the Padres in San Diego.
It’s time to give McLouth a shot: It’s no surprise to see Nate McLouth in the lineup to face Carpenter tonight. McLouth looked good during last weekend’s series in Florida and continued to impress while recording the only hits (2 singles) that Adam Wainwright surrendered after enduring a three-run first inning.
Rick Ankiel has batted .209 since joining the Braves at the trade deadline and just .167 in his past 15 games. Melky Cabrera has hit .196 in his past 18 games and proven to be a defensive liability more than once over the course of the past couple of weeks.
While there is certainly a chance that McLouth will continue to struggle like he has throughout most of this season, he is certainly capable of doing more than Ankiel or Cabrera have done over the course of the past few weeks.
My suggestion would be to platoon McLouth in left field with Matt Diaz. When Diaz is in the lineup against left-handed starters, McLouth could play center field.
Ankiel is undoubtedly the better defender in center field. But if the Braves continue to squander scoring opportunities and fail to gain a playoff berth, there won’t be anybody talking about how great it was to have Ankiel’s arm and legs in center field.