The Giants have been toiling in the National League for a while, a franchise that dates to 1883. Never during that span has the team won a game after trailing by as many as nine runs. They nearly accomplished the feat on Wednesday by rallying from a 10-1 deficit against the Reds to tie the contest, only to lose in 12 frames.
The Colorado Rockies, circa 1993, achieved the feat of coming back from a nine-run hole to win on Wednesday. While someone must have forgotten to put the baseballs in the humidor and reminded Jair Jurrjens that simply throwing the stitched sphere over the plate does not win big league games, regardless of the size of the advantage, the Braves were the victim of the Rockies' rally, thereby concluding a three-game sweep at Coors Field. The lone positive from the day's events was the fact that Philadelphia dropped its third straight at home to the lowly Astros, which kept Atlanta's lead at 2 1/2 games while wiping another date off the 2010 slate.
Fortunately, the Braves are off on Thursday, a fact that should give the team a chance to rest and lick its wounds after being rolled by the Rocks. The off-day also sets the stage for an important week that could go a long way toward deciding the division winner.
The Braves have 35 games remaining--20 at Turner Field and 15 on the road. That's good news, considering that the Braves are 44-17 when playing alongside Hank Aaron Drive versus a pedestrian 29-37 away from the comforts of home. The Phillies, meanwhile, have 36 games left--17 at Citizens Bank Park, where they are 42-25, and 19 on the road, where they are 28-31. Twenty-eight of Atlanta's games are against National League East clubs, the exceptions being three at PNC Park in Pittsburgh and four at home against St. Louis. The Phils have a similar schedule by facing the NL East in 25 of their 36 outings.
In all likelihood, the division will be decided in two parts of the slate. Over the next week, the Braves have the easier stretch by hosting the Marlins for three games this weekend before welcoming the Mets for four. The Phillies play the series finale against Houston on Thursday before traveling across the country to San Diego to meet the first-place Padres three times. Charlie Manuel's crew then goes to Los Angeles for three next Monday through Wednesday before making a one-day stop in Colorado on Thursday to make up a May 11 postponement. That's eight games in eight days in four cities with a cross-country flight thrown in. Not easy.
The other part is more obvious--the head-to-head three-game series in Philadelphia on September 20-22 and the season-ending three-game set in Atlanta on October 1-3. Sweeping six games for either team will be a tough task, which makes it that much more important for Bobby Cox's club to make the most of the week ahead.
The Braves definitely have an easier road ahead than the Phillies over the next five-plus weeks. But allowing the Phils to remain within striking distance is not advisable, particularly since Philadelphia has played much of its season without key components that are gradually getting back on the field. Now is the time for the Braves to play their best baseball. If Atlanta fails to create any breathing room, the two-time defending National League champs might still have life come the final weekend of the slate.
By the way, that last weekend of the year will be Cox's final series as Atlanta's manager. Might be a good idea to go ahead and secure those tickets asap.