Braves 9 Cardinals 7 (66-49, 8 game lead – magic number: 39!)
Since I last posted, the Braves have gone 8-2 (including today's win over the Cardinals), improving their lead in the NL East from 4.5 games to 8 games over the Phillies! It's too early to be satisfied with 47 games left to play, but it's beginning to look like the Braves are a shoo-in to win their 13th consecutive division title, their 10th straight in the NL East.
What I Did in Wisconsin/Minnesota
During my week in Hudson, Wisconsin, which sits on eastern side of the St. Croix River (on the western side of which is Minnesota), I did very little of anything productive, but I did make my first trip to the Metrodome to see the Athletics play the Twins on August 8. I had no idea I'd get two games for the price of one that day, but the Twins and A's forced 18 innings, eventually settling it in the 18th inning when the A's outscored the Twins 3-2, ending the game 6-5. (I also missed two batting practice home runs by less than a foot each… one more step was all I needed!)
What the Braves Did
In 10 games, the Braves scored 58 runs and batted .299 (106-for-354) with a .365 on-base percentage (34 walks) and a .497 slugging percentage (16 doubles and 18 homers) while holding the opposition to a .249 batting average and only 36 runs. The pitching staff improved its league-leading ERA to 3.64, led by Jaret Wright, Russ Ortiz, Mike Hampton (respectively riding nine, seven, and six-game winning streaks), and John Smoltz .
On the hitting side of things, Rafael Furcal has raised his average to .283 and Chipper Jones is up to .241, and Andruw Jones continues to enjoy hitting the ball hard to right field. After today's game, nine of the Braves 13 position players are batting better than .290 since the All-Star break, with Eddie Perez over .280 in just over 30 at-bats, Marcus Giles around .270, Nick Green at .260, and Adam LaRoche around .250 – very solid!
The Braves have also played solid defense in my absence, with only six errors in the last ten games (and I saw two today, so they weren't really in my absence). Pitching always looks better on paper with good defense behind it on the field, so if the Braves can keep making the most of their turns in the field as well as at the plate, we'll be seeing them in October for the 13th time in 14 years!
Maybe number 13 will be unlucky for the rest of the league and the Braves can squeeze in their second World Series championship...