Coming into the series with the Washington Nationals this week, the mantra for the Atlanta Braves and their faithful seemed to be “Sweep or bust!” Unfortunately, it looks like it might end up being just that…in the wrong direction.
Washington topped the Braves on Monday in a 13-inning marathon game that ended with a Dan Uggla blooper reel play, and then Nationals’ ace Stephen Strasburg stymied the Braves hitters for six innings, striking out 10, for his 15th win of the season on Tuesday.
So what does all that mean?
It means what many have been saying about the Braves since mid July. They are a quality team, with some good players, but their great record since the All-Star break is more a product of a weak schedule, and that the Nationals are simply a better team.
Atlanta walked into Nationals Park sitting five games back from the NL East lead, and were hoping to at least trim that lead to two or three games. Right now, they’ll be lucky to head out of town only seven games back.
Mathematically the Braves still have a shot at winning the division, but all baseball logic points to the fact that they need to just focus on remaining in one of the two wild card spots in the National League.
“(You) never want to concede,” said third baseman Chipper Jones. “You want to hold out hope that you still have hope.”
Hope may be all the Braves have when it comes to winning the division at this point. The Nationals are 10-4 against Atlanta this season, and have beaten the Braves four straight times. Atlanta only has four more games against the Nationals, including the finale of this series, so making up a seven or eight game deficit in just 36 total remaining games may be a tall order.
The upstart Nationals have had the Braves’ number this year, and with momentum, great pitching, and a favorable schedule on their side, they look to roll to their first division title.
I think it’s safe to say that if there were still any members of the 1991 Braves still playing for this club, they’d have a pretty good idea of how the Los Angeles Dodgers felt that season.
The Braves have given a name to their pain…and it is “Natitude”.