Contrary to reports, the Braves are postseason contenders.
Or, rather, plenty of (very) recent vintage Braves are.
By one man’s count, of the remaining five NL teams and six AL teams who've won a playoff spot or remain in postseason contention, there are a whopping 17 former Braves, and by former we’re talking guys who were with the Braves organization within the past year. We’re not even talking, say, catcher Brian McCann (Yankees) or David Ross (Cubs), or pitcher Sean Gilmartin, who was traded by the Braves to the Twins in December 2013, then taken by the Mets in the Rule 5 draft in December 2014.
No, we’re talking strictly players who were with the Braves organization within the past year. Seventeen players (unless I'm missing one) now with contending teams, most of them on major league rosters with a few exceptions.
Dodgers: Alex Wood, Luis Avilan, Brandon Beachy, Jim Johnson, Jose Peraza, Ian Thomas.
Mets: Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, Eric Young Jr.
Cardinals: Jason Heyward, Jordan Walden.
Cubs: Tommy LaStella.
Royals: Kris Medlen, Jonny Gomes.
Twins: J.R. Graham, Ervin Santana.
Astros: Evan Gattis.
So, while you won’t be watching the Braves play any games after Sunday, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a former Brave or two to pull for in most postseason games.
• Braves vs. Fightin’ Nats: The Braves are just 4-13 against the Nationals this season, but Tuesday night’s win was their third straight against them at Turner Field. The Bravos won the last two games of a June 30-July 2 series in Atlanta before getting swept in four games at Washington in the first week of September.
It was also the 20th consecutive one-run home game won by the Braves, a major league record and remarkably quirky streak that began May 1. The Braves have lost a ton of games in that period, and won some by wider margins than one run, but they've won each of the past 20 home games that were decided by one run. Crazy. And each of the past four Braves home games have been 2-1 wins for the home nine.
For those wondering, the previous record win streak was 18 consecutive one-run home games done by three teams, most recently the Boston Red Sox in a period spanning the 20o5-2006 seasons.
The June 30-July 2 series at Turner Field was the only one the Braves have won in five series so far against the Nationals this season. With a win Wednesday or Thursday, they can make it two straight home-series wins against the Nationals, which is a small battle won in what’s been a one-sided war between the teams this season.
By the way, if you want to know how the East was won by the Mets, here it is: Since the beginning of August, the Mets are 36-18 and the Nationals are 26-30. In fact, during that span Washington has been slightly closer to Atlanta’s record (17-37) than the Nationals have been to the Mets’ record over the same period.
• Too little, too late, but hey: The Braves, after going a mind-boggling 15-48 with a 5.53 ERA in 63 games from July 8 through Sept. 17, are 6-4 with a 3.87 ERA in their past 10 games
And after going 1-14 with a 6.62 ERA in 15 home games from Aug. 25 through Sept. 17, are 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA in their past four home games, all won by 2-1 scores.
• Nobody beats the Viz: Well, almost nobody. Ironically, for those familiar with the Viz reference, no one but New York has beat him this season. The rookie closer is 3-1 with a 1.74 ERA in 33 appearances, and eight saves in nine opportunities, the loss coming against the Mets.
Since giving up two earned runs apiece in consecutive one-third-of-an-inning appearances against the Mets Sept. 11-12 -- he got his ‘L’ in the second outing -- Vizcaino has pitched seven scoreless innings in seven appearances, converting all four saves in that stretch while allowing six hits and one walk with 10 strikeouts.
In his Tuesday night save against the Nationals, he gave up consecutive hits to start the ninth, then got a bunted double-play grounder – nice work by A.J. Pierzynski and 3B Daniel Castro -- and a strikeout to work out of the jam.
• Wednesday matchup: For the second night in a row, it’ll be a Braves rookie vs. an established Nationals starter as Williams Perez faces Jordan Zimmermann. And like his rookie rotation mate Matt Wisler, Perez will be looking to continue an impressive late-season run after struggling through a mid-season slump.
For Perez, the struggles came after he returned from a five-week stint on the DL for a foot injury. He went 0-6 with a 9.50 ERA and .349 opponents’ average in his first seven starts back from the DL, but since then Perez has gone 2-0 with a 2.92 ERA in four starts. He’s only faced the Nationals one time, when Perez gave up four runs while recording just one out in his major league debut May 8 at Washington. Bryce Harper homered off him that day.
Zimmermann has gone in the other direction in his past few starts. After posting a 4-1 record, 2.66 ERA and .220 opponents’ average in seven starts from Aug. 7 through Sept. 8, he has a 7.41 ERA and .284 OA in his past three starts with five homers allowed in 17 innings. He gave up three homers in five innings of his last start Friday at home against the Phillies.
Zimmermann has long been a thorn in the side of the Braves, and that’s continued this season even after all the changes in Braves personnel. He’s 7-2 with a 2.52 ERA in 15 career starts against the Braves, including 3-0 with a 1.82 ERA in five starts against them this season. He’s allowed 30 hits, no home runs and eight walks with 23 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings in those games.
Against Zimmermann, Nick Markakis is 9-for-27 with a homer, Freddie Freeman is 9-for-25 (.360) with six walks and a .484 OBP, Jace Peterson is 4-for-15, A.J. Pierzynski is 4-for-15, Andrelton Simmons is 4-for-27, Cameron Maybin is 4-for-22, and Michael Bourn is 1-for-12 with five strikeouts, and Nick Swisher is 3-for-6.
• Let's close with this one from The Killer, the great Jerry Lee Lewis, who turned 80 on Tuesday and is still out touring. Rock on, Jerry Lee.
He got a heck of a deal
On a new Porsche car
He ain't wearing his usual grey business suit
He's got jeans and high boots
With an embroidered star
And today he's forty years old going on twenty
Don't look for the grey in his hair
'Cause he ain't got any
He's got a young thing beside him
That just melts in his hand
He's middle-aged crazy
Trying to prove he still can
He's gotta a woman he's loved for a long long time at homeAh but the thrill is all gone
When they cut down the lights
They've got a business that they spent a while coming by
Been a long uphill climb
But now the profits are high
But today he's forty years old going on twenty
And he hears of sordid affairs and he ain't had any
And the young thing beside him
You know she understands
That he's middle-aged crazy
Trying to prove he still can