Posted: 9:21 am Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Braves find a groove — but so do Nationals 

By Jeff Schultz

Braves have won five straight but remain six games behind Washington. (AP photo)

Braves have won five straight but remain six games behind Washington. (AP photo)

Six days ago, on the eve of the Braves’ “Zombie Night” promotion at Turner Field, I wrote a column on the Braves’ seeming march into the regular season afterlife and the reasons manager Fredi Gonzalez needed to bench the struggling B.J Upton. At that point, they had lost 12 of 15 games and 17 of 26 since the All-Star break.

A follow-up blog and cartoon posed the question to you, “Is the fat lady singing” on their season?” Most readers believed yes. I certainly believed yes. When it comes to the division race, I still think yes. But it appears the body isn’t cold yet.

The Braves closed their homestand with an expected sweep of the Oakland A’s and have scored 18 runs on 29 hits in two games in Pittsburgh to open an 10-game road trip. (Note: The Braves also scored 18 runs the last time they were on the road … but over eight games, all losses.)

So does this signal a turnaround? Sorry, I don’t have an advanced degree in abnormal psychology.

But they are scoring runs. Jason Heyward, who always have been the key to the lineup, has been on a tear, hitting .323 in August.

But the one problem the Braves have is they can’t control what the Washington Nationals do, and the Nationals are one of the hottest teams in baseball. They have won eight straight, which is why the Braves remain six games back in the National League East. Washington also is 20-10 over the last 30 games, which is the best in the league and second in the majors to only Kansas City (22-8).

“We’re kind of coming together,” shortstop Ian Desmond told the Washington Post. “We’ve kind of established our way.”

So despite five straight wins, the Braves have seen their elimination number in the East shrink by five to 32. They have 36 games left; Washington has 38.

It doesn’t appear Washington is going to go into a tailspin, barring injuries. So the Braves’ best chance to make it a race again in the East is do something significant in head-to-head meetings. That means winning at least five of the six games the teams have left against each other. (Winning four of six would trim only two games. Math rules.)

Then again, as most of you are familiar with Braves’ fizzles in October, it may not matter how they get to the postseason, as a division winner or a wild card. If the Braves keep playing like this, they’ll get a wild card. At 66-60, they’re currently only percentage points behind San Francisco (65-59) for the second spot, and 2½ behind St. Louis (68-57).

So they’re not dead yet. In your mind, does this change anything? The cyber floor is yours.

 Some recent ramblings (free links)
– MyAJC: Mike Tice has a challenge — and he knows it
– Blog: Bobby Petrino, Todd Grantham reportedly feuding already
– Blog: Falcons can survive without Baker, not others
– Blog: FSU No. 1, Georgia No. 12 in poll of insignificance
– MyAJC: Trent Miles trying to change attitudes at Georgia State
– Blog: With Braves six back, is ‘Fat Lady’ singing?
– MyAJC: B.J. Upton, Braves continue their zombie walk
– MyAJC: Cancer didn’t slow Michael Cooper
– Blog: Braves’ attendance reflects lack of confidence
– MyAJC: Falcons showing humility, lack of comfort — and that’s good
– Blog: Braves being hurt by shortage of leaders
– MyAJC: Can ‘Power 5′ conferences handle this power?
– Blog: Who’s most to blame for Braves’ fall? (vote in poll)
– Blog: Roddy White lost Twitter ‘bet’ and paid off in a big way
– MyAJC: Paul George’s injury shows risk of NBA players in tournaments
– MyAJC: Paul Johnson needs to impress his new boss at Georgia Tech
– Blog: Dan Uggla rejects demotion and is out of a job again
– MyAJC: Pruitt winning over Georgia in ways Grantham didn’t
– MyAJC: We’ll find out how right or wrong Frank Wren is
– Blog: It’s trade deadline day…and it’s quiet here
– MyAJC: Braves hamstrung by finances at trade deadline
– Blog: Urban Meyer gets it wrong on Tim Tebow
– MyAJC: Braves’ best postseason hope is starting pitching
– MyAJC: Steven Jackson: ‘I kind of believed my own hype’
24 comments
Wilbo
Wilbo

If it weren't so dishonest and stupid, it would be almost funny how the Braves blog writers act like every teeny little bit of temporary competence means this emotionally dead team has just made the great turn around. Good grief! The major league baseball season is 162 games long, every team even the very very worst win a few games in a row every now and then. That means nothing. At least Little Schooltzee mentions the Braves perennial flops in October, so we have to take that as a baby step toward honesty by our crew of homer bonehead writers. Even after this little hot streak, the sickly Bravos are still eight games back of the nationals in the loss column and still not in the wildcard. Even if the Atlanta Deadbeats were to somehow slither into the postseason, all they would give us is another Atlanta October embarrassment.

Jamesonian62
Jamesonian62

The real question isn't if the Braves will fold like a card table (they will), it's at what game will the Turner Field fans start pelting the team with what's known as the Atlanta Ticker Tape Parade, i.e. trash and empty beer bottles? Could be any day now...

FarTrain
FarTrain

If I had to bet money on it,  I would bet that it ends up just the way it stands right now.  Milwaukee, LA, and the Nats with Division titles, and the two wildcards San Fran and St. Louis.  No need to hope for the Braves as a wildcard anyway, as they would lose the first game as usual.  

9awebb
9awebb

This is some cosmic frat house prank to allow us to steal it out from under the Nats! After all, we're not in their heads. We're just better than they are. Maybe not against any other team. But against them.......... I would stand on my head in a bucket of ....and whistle Dixie to see it all come down to our last series with the Nats. Talk about great TV!!

SonomaCountyDawg
SonomaCountyDawg

Keep doing what they're doing and they'll make the playoffs. By now, we all know that a hot wild card team is just as dangerous if not more than a division winner. If anybody should know, it should be the Braves. Still doesn't seem like a team that is going deep into the playoffs. Too many holes...

cvan32802
cvan32802

You're right about the Nationals. Even with a 5 game winning streak the Braves are 6 back and if the season ended today would be out of the wild card by a few percentage points.   They will have to sustain the recent offense to remain in the hunt.

Jacketa$$
Jacketa$$

Yes it to late.  On to football.

BaseballBuff
BaseballBuff

This is one streaky team, for sure. I still do not see how they are over .500, but they are, so we need to take a wait-and-see attitude. I agree that a wild-card spot is the best we can hope for.

As for the B.J. situation, I know what it is like to have a younger brother who is a much better ballplayer than me. In Little League, it was embarrassing, especially when we were on the same team. But unless he is in total denial,  B.J. is used to it by now. I also don't have much doubt that little brother Justin could kick his butt - literally.

Jmonty
Jmonty

I think it's too late..  The Braves are winning, but the Nats are too.  We have to keep winning and hot the Nats got through a 8-9 game losing streak.  Without us doing the same..  I just don't see it.  I think we miss the playoffs this year by a game or 2.  Maybe the sour taste of not being in the playoffs will force management to make the cuts needed.  Starting with Wren...  and then go down from there.

FromATLtoAZ
FromATLtoAZ

Ok, I admit it.  The thing with BJ Upton has been a disaster.  I have listened to the  on TV talk about his swing mechanics being all over the place.  He's had Chipper come to the Ted to try to work with him during BP sessions.  If you ever go through a slump, I can understand that you need to dive into the details and get it fixed.  For some reason, BJ is not doing this.  I really thought he just needed to adjust to NL pitching and he would be fine.  He just seems to be pressing, guessing, late on pitches, I really don't know.


I defended him early on and I still believe he has serious talent, but as my coaches used to always say in football, "it's time to get your mind right".  That over run play between center and RF the other day was deplorable.  Sorry BJ for the criticism but you have earned this.


The Brave's lost two quality starters to begin the year, had to deal with the Uggla problem all season, as well as BJ's lack of production, and un untimely 0-8 west coast road trip to get us to where we are now.  Still, they somehow are in the conversation for a wildcard.  Amazing.


I'll never give up on these guys and always want to see them make a run. If they can pull this off and have success in the playoffs, I will simply look at my buddy over a few brews and say that life is nothing short of surreal sometimes. 


Come on Bravo's - Let's do this!

Mr. Negative
Mr. Negative

Mr Negative is cleaning his grill and biding his time. Meanwhile, the buffoonery in Flowery Branch will keep him busy

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

In your mind, does this change anything?


NO!

nevrenuftime
nevrenuftime

The sweep of Oakland was expected? Really?

highfive
highfive

A slim chance at the WC but no chance at catching the Nats. Main challenge, if the Giants slip, for the 2nd WC, may come from the Marlins. When are the Braves and management ever going to learn that all the games count and the best lineup needs to take the field every game. There are no throw away games.

ByteMe
ByteMe

Someone who is terminal and dying, slowly wasting away, right before the end, they often have a "rally" where they'll wake up, have no idea how bad off they are, will be totally coherent and there and that lasts usually for 12-24 hours.  Then they go back to dying, usually within a day.


The Braves are rallying.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Over fifty years of observing MLB I've seen plenty of six game leads vanish, some in a week. So you play the games, play the schedule, and see what happens. It is interesting how we've witnessed the hot and cold extremes over the last 2-3 of weeks. What the Braves young lineup is struggling to attain is maturity and consistency. If they find and maintain enough they have the talent to roll into the playoffs.

TampGator1
TampGator1

I think it is too late to catch the Nationals for the division title.  But keep playing hard and the wild card might be there for the Braves.  Just get in the playoffs, I say.  You never know what will happen then. 

VinceVanGo
VinceVanGo

If B. J. Upton & L. Avilan stay on the bench then the Braves have a decent chance of getting a Wildcard. Then they get St. Louis  & Wainwright.(Bad news.)  Mix & matching Bonifacio, Gosselin, & LaStella is working & so is Heyward in the lead off spot. If F. Gonzolaz hadn't waited so long to give up on B.J. in the lead off spot they would be in decent shape in the division, but I think the Nats win the East by 3-4 games. 

ChefTimDix
ChefTimDix

Certainly in it for WC, question is are the Braves still the owners of the Nats?

TampGator1
TampGator1

@VinceVanGo 


The Braves started playing well when Freddy first put B.J. in the lead off spot.  I think the current streak has more to do with the Braves getting the Pirates and A's when they were and are down....and the losing streak more to do with the Braves facing both the red hot Padres and Dodgers.  But the current lineup seems to be hot, but they are not facing Padres and Dodgers pitching at the moment.  But they did face good pitching from the A's.  But the A's just have not been hitting since they traded their big bat in the middle of the order.   


IT IS BASEBALL. But everyone knows the Braves do not have an every day lineup that will compete well in the playoffs.....against top flight pitching.   But it would still be fun to see the Braves give it a try.  You just never know.  They might get hot and win it all.  

Rick_C
Rick_C

@VinceVanGo It's not a given that they'd face the other team's #1 starter in the Wild Card game.  If it's coming down to the wire, teams may not be able to adjust their rotations so that it works out like that.  In fact, I don't remember if this was by design or not, but they had Lohse start the wild card game against the Braves in 2012.

RangeRover
RangeRover

@TampGator1

"The Braves started playing well when Freddy first put B.J. in the lead off spot."

What on earth have you been drinking?  I'll take two of those!

Maybe you meant Heyward?

Waredawg
Waredawg

@Rick_C @VinceVanGo 

Maddening, deeply flawed team (see my post to Bradley's column), good, maybe playoff bound, but no chance to win a pennant or WS. Who cares about the playin

game matchup, even if they win, they're a #4 seed and the Dodgers await. Forget about last year's flop, have you watched us against the Dodgers this year? Sorry, Braves fans (and I'm a big one), same story, different year.