Analysis

Will the Braves Roll Over Starting Monday?

Or, will they give the Phillies a run for their money? It’s an honest question, really. The Atlanta Braves as recently as 10 days ago held sole possession of first place in the NL East and had been in that position the entire summer. Lately, it hasn’t been pretty.

Atlanta has lost seven of 11, tumbling from the top spot into second place. Even a playoff spot is no longer a definite at this point for a team that was once ahead of the Phillies by seven games in late-July. They’ve hit a rough patch at at time when the Phils have hit their stride. Think Bobby Cox is sweating it out in his final days as Braves manager? Breathing down their necks in the Wild Card standings are San Diego (0.5 games back) and Colorado (2.5 back).

There is still a weekend series standing between the Phillies/Braves set, but it’s never to early to look ahead (Charlie Manuel would probably ring my neck for looking this far ahead). However, it’s getting too exciting to not talk about it. Washington is in town to play spoiler and they haven’t exactly set the world on fire in Philadelphia lately. The Nats are just 6-18 at Citizens Bank Park over the past three seasons, so winning 2-out-of-3 here is basically a given. Yes, I know anything can happen, but I’m trying to look ahead here!

As for the Bravo’s, they’ve been bitten by the late season-pitching bug. Tim Hudson, a Cy Young contender all year, has flamed out in September, posting a 6.38 ERA in three starts. Jair Jurrjens has a 6.32 ERA over his last three. Rookie Mike Minor was brought up in early August, won three of his first four decisions, and has bombed since. Minor’s September has been the ugliest of the bunch. His ERA over 14 innings this month is a bloated 9.00. Their bullpen, besides thorn-in-the-side Billy Wagner, has been leakier than normal. The seams are falling apart.

Which Braves squad will we see on Monday? The one fighting for their playoff lives, eager to send Bobby Cox out with yet another pennant? Or the one we’ve come to find lately – uninspired and sloppy? Are they the overachieving team we saw for 3-4 months, or the underachieving squad that’s been around the last few weeks. For the sake of the Phillies chances, you’ll hope the former shows up.  For the sake of watching great baseball, I’d like to see Atlanta bring their best to make this race interesting.

But if they don’t, that’s fine, too.

Oh, and by the way, the Phillies play the Nationals tonight, incase you forgot!

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