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So maybe I should take back that post I threw up about 3 weeks ago or so, proclaiming the Braves season to be over...
On September 7th, after getting swept by the Reds and losing the final 2 games in the Marlins series, the Braves were 7 and a half out of the wild card, with 2 teams between them and the Rockies, and the Cubs only a half game back. The team was only 3 games above .500.
Since then, the Braves have gone 14-3 to cut the wild card deficit to only 2 and a half games. Its painful to think that if they only won two of the games during that losing streak, there would only be a half game deficit. But you can't dwell on situations like that.
So what do the schedules look like the rest of the way for the Braves & Rockies? Lets look at the Braves. The team has 5 games left against the Washington Nationals, the worst team in baseball, and 3 against the Florida Marlins, who are clinging to playoff hopes at 4 out in the wildcard.
Here are the pitching matchups for the final 8 games.
9/27 vs Washington: Derek Lowe (15-9, 4.55) vs Livan Hernandez (8-12, 5.53)
9/28 vs Florida: Jair Jurrjens (13-10, 2.70) vs Anibal Sanchez (3-7, 4.01)
9/29 vs Florida: Tim Hudson (2-1, 3.56) vs Rick VandenHurk (2-2, 4.44)
9/30 vs Florida: Javier Vazquez (15-9, 2.83) vs Ricky Nolasco (12-9, 5.28)
10/1 vs Washington: Tommy Hanson (11-4, 2.98) vs Garret Mock (3-10, 5.91)
10/2 vs Washington: Derek Lowe (15-9, 4.55) vs Livan Hernandez (8-12, 5.53)
10/3 vs Washington: Jair Jurrjens (13-10, 2.70) vs Ross Detweiler (0-6, 5.71)
10/4 vs Washington: Tim Hudson (2-1, 3.56) vs JD Martin (5-4, 4.71)
As you can tell, the pitching matchups in the remaining games are very favorable, as not one pitcher the Braves face has an ERA under 4. The games against Washington don't worry me at all. The Braves are 4-0 against the Nats in the second half, outscoring them 29-9. The team misses the Nats "ace" (and I use that term loosely) John Lannan, and with young stud Jordan Zimmermann out with Tommy John, its only another benefit for this Braves team. Garret Mock got shelled by this Braves team yesterday, which is a positive. Livan Hernandez, who the Braves have only faced once this year thusfar, but will face twice in the final week of the year, actually limited the Braves to 1 run in 6 innings in a win while pitching for the Mets back in May. As a Natspo, he's got 4 quality starts in 6 outings, and has been absolutely shellacked in his other 2 starts. Something to think about. Ross Detweiler has only faced the Braves once this year, back on July 3rd, and allowed 5 runs in 3 1/3 innings. That was THE BROOKS CONRAD GAME. JD Martin has never faced the Braves, but is allowing an .840 OPS this year. Big day.
And then...the Marlins. Anibal Sanchez has a 4.15 ERA in 4 starts this year against the Braves, 2 of which were of the quality variety. Its hit or miss with him, but he's been fantastic since coming off the DL in August (2.58 ERA in 8 starts, but only a 2:1 K:BB). Rick VandenHurk has a pair of starts against the Braves this year, and allowed 4 earned in 11 innings. The sample size there is a little small to draw a conclusion out of it, but the 12:4 K:BB makes me wince. And then theres all-world starter Ricky Nolasco, who the Braves have beat pretty well this year (4.67 ERA in 3 starts). The only game of the 8 remaining I'm truly concerned about is the Sanchez start. The Braves can only lose 1 or 2 games down the stretch to remain in the race.
The Rockies on the other hand, have 1 game left against the NL Central champion St Louis Cardinals, 3 against the Milwaukee Brewers, and 3 against the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers. Its a battle of guys underachieving lately, as Kyle Lohse takes the hill versus Jorge De La Rosa today. De La Rosa is either awesome or gets shelled, no middle ground. Lohse has been thoroughly mediocre for the Cards this year. Then its the Brewers for Colorado, with the horribly struggling Jason Marquis vs Chris Narveson, who's been...functional? for the Brewers this year. Big surprise Jason Hammel will take on the dreadful Jeff Suppan on Wednesday, while ace Aaron Cook and his less than 2:1 K:BB takes on Manny Parra on Thursday.
Finally for the Rockies, the Dodgers series. Real ace Ubaldo Jimenez takes on the always embarrassingly bad Jon Garland, De La Rosa steps up again to take on the suddenly awesome Randy Wolf, and Jason Marquis closes the year against...Clayton Kershaw! AWESOME! If the Braves go 6-2 to finish the season, the Rockies need to go 4-3 or worse for the Braves to force a tiebreaker. Even if the Braves sweep the Nats and go 1-2 against the Marlins, there is still a chance that they can get to the playoffs. Its really not impossible. The Rockies have gone 15-8 in September, which is very good. The Braves have the same record this month, but are 14-3 over the last 3 weeks. The Rockies are 10-8.
If there would be a playoff game, Jason Hammel would pitch for the Rockies, and Javier Vazquez would go for the Braves. The old coin flip tiebreaker system of the past is gone, and will instead be decided by head to head record. The teams split the season series 4-4. OK, so tiebreaker 2...highest winning percentage within the division. The Braves are 39-25 against the east, while the Rockies are 32-37 against the west, which clearly gives the edge to the Braves, no matter what happens in the remaining games. So that means that if theres a tiebreaker to be held on October 5th, it will be at Turner Field. Mark your calendars accordingly.
Keep hope alive everyone...we're not quite dead yet.