2 and a half game lead in the division. Its tight like a tiger. Who do the Braves have left, and who do the Phillies have left?
The Braves play one less game than the Phillies over the remainder of the year, with the good guys having 38 games remaining, and the hated Phillies having 39. Lets look at the Braves schedule first...since all of us are Braves fans here, right?
NL East: 28
NL Central: 7
NL West: 3
Teams .500 or Better (as of 8/23): 29
Teams .500 or Worse (as of 8/23): 9
Talk about controlling your own destiny. 2/3 of the Braves remaining games are against NL East opponents: 9 against the Marlins, 7 against the Mets, 6 against the Phillies, and 6 against the Nationals. The Braves only play one series outside of the eastern time zone over the next 6 weeks, and that is the series that begins tonight in Colorado. The lack of bad travel will be a huge perk for the Braves. One major downside: after the offday that the team has this Thursday, the Braves go on a stretch of 20 games on in 20 days. Thankfully, 14 of those 20 games are in Atlanta, and 3 are a short flight away in Miami. The series in Pittsburgh in 2 weeks looks like a great opportunity to gain some ground, as the Braves have battered the Pirates this season, going 5-1 this season against them, with the lone loss coming by one run. The big key to me in this schedule is the final road trip of the year, a 9 game swing that takes the Braves from New York to Philadelphia to Miami, before returning back home to Atlanta for 6 games to close out the year. If the Braves can retain their lead at the end of that stretch, everything should be fine in regards to making the playoffs. One caveat for those of you looking at the fact that the Braves play 29 games against teams at or above .500: I'm looking at the records as of today. The Rockies (3) are 3 games above .500, while the Mets (7) are at .500 and the Marlins (9) are only a game over. By the time the Braves start play against the Mets and Marlins, they could both be under .500. Very pleasing.
Now, we're going to take a look at the Phillies schedule.
NL East: 25
NL Central: 7
NL West: 7
Teams .500 or Better (as of 8/23): 26
Teams .500 or Worse (as of 8/23): 13
The home/road splits for each team are virtually identical, with the Phillies having one more road game due to a makeup game in Colorado during the first week of September. A couple things jump out at me: much like the Braves, the Phillies have a long stretch without a day off...over the next 17 days, they've got 18 games thanks to a double header in Philadelphia against the Marlins and the aforementioned makeup game in Colorado. If you take it all the way back though, the Phillies will have played 24 games in 23 days before their next day off. Thats huge for a team as banged up as the Phillies are right now. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Shane Victorino may be back off the DL, but are they really 100%? I personally don't think so, and the grind that the Phillies have as August comes to a close and September begins could break their season. There's also the huge road trip Philly has: a west coast swing to San Diego, Los Angeles, and one game in Denver against the Rockies. The Phillies 7 games outside of the eastern time zone could be a killer. The Phillies have a similar divisional schedule compared to the Braves, with 7 left against the Marlins, and 6 each against the Braves, Nationals, and Mets.
So what's going to happen? I can't tell you that. Everything is nearly dead even. In the end, I think that the Phillies will falter on this west coast road trip, maybe to the tune of a 3-4 record. That should give the Braves enough ammo to hold them off in the division and return to the postseason.