Time for the Braves to start helping themselves
So you woke up yesterday feeling pretty good and went to bed wondering, “Is there really a chance that they’re going to blow this?”
Well consider yourself lucky Braves fans. The millions who make up Red Sox Nation did not even have the opportunity to wake up feeling good about their team Saturday.
Welcome to this year’s version of September baseball, the conclusion of Wild Card races have been delayed as futility has reigned.
At some point yesterday most Braves fans were likely cursing Cubs closer Carlos Marmol, who was as accurate as a politician’s campaign speech while issuing three walks and uncorking a game-ending wild pitch in a two-run ninth that gave the Cardinals a 2-1 victory.
But as this race has prolonged it has become even more apparent that there is no need for the Braves to worry about what is happening to the Cardinals. With the start of the playoffs one week away, it’s time for them to start worrying only about themselves.
Yes you can say the Cardinals stole a victory Saturday afternoon in St. Louis. But if if you say this, you must say they were also robbed of a victory when they did not hold a four-run ninth-inning lead during Thursday’s loss to the Mets.
With four games remaining, the Braves own a two-game advantage over the Cardinals in the National League Wild Card race. The magic number to clinch sits at three.
The Braves would certainly help themselves if they can clinch before putting themselves in a position where they are forced to send Tim Hudson to the mound to start Wednesday’s regular season finale against the Phillies.
If Hudson has to start Wednesday’s game, he might not be available to start again until Game 3 of the Division Series. There’s certainly a chance, he would be brought back on short rest to start Game 2. Either way, the Braves don’t want to put themselves in a position where he would not available to start Game 1.
Of course to conclude this Wild Card race before Wednesday arrives, the Braves would likely have to win at least a couple games in a row — a rarity this month.
The Braves have won two games in a row just twice this month and that includes that September 8 doubleheader sweep of the Mets. In case you were wondering, the Red Sox have not won consecutive games since sweeping a twinbill against the A’s on Aug. 27.
Mike Minor will take the mound for the Braves this afternoon to oppose Ross Detwiler, who allowed three hits while tossing 7 1/3 scoreless innings against the Phillies. In his only appearance against Atlanta this year, he allowed three runs while working two relief innings.
Oh yeah, Detwiler was born in St. Louis and attended Missouri State University. You think he’s received a few calls from a few friends/Cardinals fans over the past couple days?
Minor has made incredible strides since the beginning of this season and has impressed since becoming a fixture in the rotation over the past two months. He made a couple mistakes to Mike Stanton and another to Logan Morrison in Miami Tuesday night. But he pitched much better than you might have envisioned if you simply saw that he allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings.
After concluding this three-game series against the Nationals, the Braves will come host to host the Phillies, who have lost eight in a row since clinching a fifth consecutive division title.
UPDATED: The Phillies start Cliff Lee Monday and then plan to utilized their bullpen to get through Wednesday’s game. Roy Oswalt will start Tuesday in what could be an abbreviated appearance in preparation of the playoffs.
But it’s also seemingly safe to assume Charlie Manuel’s troops are going to want to taste another win or two again before heading to the playoffs.
Once they conclude their three-game series with the Cubs today,the Cardinals will travel to Houston for a three-game series against the Astros, who are already evaluating who they might choose when they have the top overall pick in next year’s First-Year Player Draft.
Maybe Astros centerfielder Jordan Schafer will help his former Braves teammates before this week concludes.
But the only sure fire way the Braves are going to clinch this Wild Card is if they start helping themselves.