WASHINTON- After being swept by the Phillies, the Braves arrive in Washington to try to beat up on the last place Nationals. A series with the worst team in the division is just what the doctor orders after such a disappointing run in with the Phillies. I cannot say that I did not see the sweep coming, but I stuck my head in the clouds and tried to stay optimistic about the Braves chances. Reality set in and I am back down to earth. My big fear is that the Braves let the rough series linger into this one and hurt their wild card chances even further.
At no point in the past series did I feel like the Braves were the better team on the field, but in the next three games Atlanta will be heavily favored to win. How will the Braves play against the Nats? That is the question that fans are nervously awaiting the answer to today. Atlanta has struggled burying opponents that are inferior to them. This series holds a great deal of importance to the Braves playoff push.
The Giants are a half game behind the Braves in the wild card race, but both teams are tied in the loss column. This means that the Giants have not played as many games as the Braves and are one behind in the win column. Which ultimately means if both teams win every game the rest of the season they would end up tied. Colorado is currently three games back of the Braves.
The NL west division race is extremely close and each team still in the mix has a series with one another. The Giants play at Colorado and at home against San Diego. And the Padres play the NL central leading Reds next week which could cause some problems for them. By then though the Reds will probably have clinched their spot in the playoffs and be resting key players which will give the Padres a slight advantage.
While the NL west beats up on each other, the Braves play in Washington and host the Marlins before the season ending series with the Phillies. Barring an all out collapse, the Braves should be able to win the series with the Nationals and Marlins. A sweep of one of the teams would be delightful, but winning two out of three in both match ups would be taken gladly. Philadelphia will have clinched the east by then and will be resting Hamels, Halladay, and Oswalt. If the Braves can have a record of 90-69 going into the series with the Phillies, I think they will have a great chance to make the playoffs with some momentum.
Momentum is the key factor in the equation. Atlanta has a great chance to make the playoffs. Whether they close the season with three series wins or back their way into the playoffs with poor baseball has yet to be determined. If the Braves have any real hope of not only making the playoffs but winning a series or two they will have to get their swagger back and gain some momentum.
If the Braves win six or seven out of their last nine games, they could be on a real hot streak when they enter the National League Division Series. Keep faith Atlanta fans, there is still a lot to cheer about. Chin up! Bobby Cox has not coached his last game in a Braves uniform yet so there is still time to send him out on a high note.