Jeff Schultz

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

Braves find a groove -- but so do Nationals


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.


Reader Comments ...

About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.