Now would be good time for Braves to mitigate Western struggles


For former National League West inhabitants, the Braves never look comfortable out west.

This would be an optimal time to change that, with four in Arizona and three in San Francisco comprising the second-to-last road trip of the season. When the Braves complete this trip, they’ll have only 16 games left on the schedule. 

Seven will come against the Phillies who, as of Thursday afternoon, trail the Braves by three games in the East. The head-to-head games might well determine the winner, but how the Braves fare over the next week sets the stage.

The Braves’ results against the NL West are well-documented. They’re 9-18 against the division this season, and carry a 29-64 mark since 2013. The Braves are 6-10 in Phoenix over that span, without a series win in the desert since 2012.

Once this quartet of games ends, they travel to San Francisco, which mauled them in an early-season sweep at SunTrust Park. Simply put, there’s some disaster potential on this trip. But there’s also the chance to solidify their standing with the postseason weeks away.

Fortunately for the NL East leaders, their inconceivably bad collapse Wednesday – botching a 7-1 eighth-inning lead to the Red Sox – didn’t cost them a spot in the standings. The hapless Marlins beat the Phillies.

“We have a good group of guys in here and we have our eyes on the prize, and that’s to win this division,” first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “You can’t dwell on a loss. It’s just a loss. It doesn’t matter if we lost by 100 runs or one run, we’ve got to move on.

The Braves have lost six of their past eight, yet the Phillies have gained only 1-1/2 games. They lost a series in Miami while the Braves were decimated by Boston. 

Philadelphia plays at the Mets and host the Nationals during the Braves’ west coast trip. The Phillies have the added benefit of seeing the Marlins and Mets again before the end-of-season stretch against the Braves.

One game at a time, as manager Brian Snitker reiterates. The opponent at hand is the Diamondbacks, whose bats have been up and down throughout the season, but need to catch fire as Arizona plays 17 consecutive contests against first-place teams.

Arizona dropped four in a row before salvaging the finale against San Diego. It sits two games back in the NL West, and with an even tougher slate than the oft-analyzed Braves schedule, put-up-or-shut-up time is setting in.

For the Braves, it’s a chance to put away the western demons and draw closer to a postseason berth. Even holding serve would peel valuable days off the calendar, while putting more pressure on the faceoffs with the Phillies. 

If the Braves do win the East, it’s increasingly likely their opponent will be the West winner. The Rockies, Dodgers and Diamondbacks were all within two games of each other Thursday. 

“This is a big series for us,” Freeman said. “We’ve got tough matchups all through this weekend. So we’ve got to play well and put (Wednesday) behind us and hope we get off to a good start this road trip.”


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Atlanta Braves

Brian Snitker wins NL manager of the year
Brian Snitker wins NL manager of the year

Braves skipper Brian Snitker won National League manager of the year, the league announced Tuesday night. Snitker oversaw one of MLB’s most pleasant surprises, his Braves winning 90 games and claiming the National League East title. Seventeen of the 30 first-place votes went to Snitker. Milwaukee’s Craig Counsell finished second with 11...
Acuna ‘honored’ to be named Rookie of the Year
Acuna ‘honored’ to be named Rookie of the Year

Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna woke up in Japan to news he had been named National League Rookie of the Year.  Acuna was a runaway choice for the award over Washington outfielder Juan Soto in a contest between 20-year-olds.  “I’m just flattered, I’m so honored,” Acuna said through an interpreter from Hiroshima. &ldquo...
Ronald Acuna wins NL Rookie of the Year
Ronald Acuna wins NL Rookie of the Year

- The buzz on social media after Acuna named NL Rookie of the Year Braves’ star outfielder Ronald Acuna has been named the 2018 National League rookie of the year, the league announced Monday.  He topped fellow outfielder Juan Soto of the Nationals 114-89. Acuna garnered 27 first-place votes while Soto had two. Dodgers pitcher Walker...
Braves’ Wilson, Davidson have nice days in AFL
Braves’ Wilson, Davidson have nice days in AFL

Izzy Wilson and Braxton Davidson, a pair of Braves prospects, helped Peoria defeat Surprise 7-4 in Saturday’s Arizona Fall League meeting. Center fielder Cristian Pache, the Braves’ highest-ranked prospect in Arizona, wasn’t in the lineup, paving the way for Wilson to start in right field. Pache ran into a wall in the eight inning...
Nick Markakis wins a Silver Slugger award
Nick Markakis wins a Silver Slugger award

Braves right fielder Nick Markakis won the Silver Slugger award Thursday night for the first time, capping what’s considered the most celebrated campaign of the 34-year-old’s career thus far. The Silver Slugger award is given to the top offensive players at each position, voted on by managers and coaches. Markakis was named to his first...
More Stories