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Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Braves remind us that they can play, too

Oh happy Braves! A sweep is complete! (David Tulis/AP)

A homestand that might have been the Atlanta Braves' last stand of 2014 became something rather different. For the first time a long while, they proved they can beat somebody good besides Washington. They reminded us that they can play, too.

They swept the Oakland A's, who have baseball's best record no more, after nearly being swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The homestand ended with the home team going 6-4, which mightn't sound like much until we recall that, as of Friday morning, you'd surely have predicted 4-6 if not 3-7. They even beat two excellent pitchers -- the A's Sonny Gray and Jon Lester -- to close the 10-game set.

All of which means: The Braves are back in this thing. They probably won't win the National League East -- the Nats have gone undefeated since leaving here and lead by 6 1/2 games -- but the wild card is very much in play. They're 1 1/2 games back in the runner-up chase, and they're about to face the Pirates, with whom they're tied.

The Braves' playoff odds, which dipped around 20 percent midway through last week, have been bumped back to 32.8 percent. (This per ESPN.) In sum, they just gave themselves a chance, and they did it against the toughest part of their schedule. This isn't to say they're a lock to reach October now -- this bunch is never a lock to do anything except confuse us -- but the Braves won't face another run of 10 such daunting games the rest of the regular season. They've got a shot.

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About the Author

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with the AJC since 1984.