It is not hard to admire the way the Atlanta Braves have played so far this season. They have had their share of injuries and then some. Two of the best setup relief pitchers of the last decade are gone for the season and they still held first place. Two-thirds of their superstar outfield were basic no-shows for the majority of the first half of the year but they still held first. On Sunday as a day when Kris Medlen did not have his best stuff the Philadelphia Phillies fired another warning shot at the Braves comfortable hold on first place.
They lost the series to the Phillies in pretty dominant fashion. The Phillies looked dominant that is. It should be noted that they were road games for the Braves which almost always go badly right now. The problem is that they should have been able to beat the Phillies at least two out o three games but they didn’t. Their bench has lost Ramiro Pena, Jordan Schafer and Evan Gattis lately and that might be the blow that takes them down.
Like to hear it or not, the Braves starting line-up hasn’t consistently gotten the job done all season by themselves. They have had help and right now part of the help, the great bench, is gone. When the other factor that has keyed the first place run, the good pitching, doesn’t show, they lose. That is happening much more often of late and the Braves might either want to pay attention to the Washington Nationals getting closer in their rearview mirror or completely ignore them. That way they can act all surprised in about a week or two when the Nats fly passed them.
It isn’t a guarantee of course that they will lose first place but if they play for the most part over the next week like they played against the Phillies on Sunday, they might even lose first before the All-Star break. They need a spark, a good spark, from somewhere. They don’t need it in a month. They need it right now.