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will-the-real-atlanta-braves-please-stand-up | May | 2004 Articles

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Will the Real Atlanta Braves Please Stand Up?

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The first weeks of the season leave much to be desired in Atlanta, with the Braves slouching low at 14-17, 3.5 games behind the Marlins in third place in the NL East. Inconsistent performances on the mound, in the field, and at the plate have hurt us, but even more troubling are all the injuries, forcing manager Bobby Cox to juggle the lineup and invite a few minor leaguers to play major league roles for a while. In only 31 games, regular starters have missed a combined total of 36 games due to injury, and it can only be estimated how many more games have been played in pain. Jesse Garcia, DeWayne Wise, Mike Hessman, and Wilson Betemit have put up much of the Braves' numbers so far, but now that Chipper Jones, J.D. Drew, and Marcus Giles are all in the lineup, with Rafael Furcal scheduled to return tonight, we still don't know how the 2004 Braves will be when/if they perform consistently. There is reason to be excited about the next four months of the season. Drew, when he plays, is outperforming every rightfielder in the game. Johnny Estrada's offense is among best of catchers in baseball, and his .550 average with runners in scoring position is best in baseball. And Horacio Ramirez has pitched very well, among the league leaders in ERA, but has received very little run support and is suffering with an 0-3 record despite a staff-best 2.75 ERA. At 14-17 with several months to play, nothing is certain except potential. If the Braves only play as well as they have so far, they can expect a finish around .500 by October. However, if Furcal, Andruw, Chipper, and Giles overcome their injuries and if Hampton and Ortiz pick up where they left off last year, the Braves could easily win 75-85 more games.
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