The Braves currently sit in first place in the NL East with a 12.5 game lead over the Nationals. In the last two weeks, the Braves have put considerable distance between themselves and the rest of the division, having swept three consecutive series (vs. St Louis Cardinals, vs. Colorado Rockies, and at Philadelphia Phillies) and won 10 games in a row.
Everything seems to have come together at the same time for the Braves. The offense is finally clicking the way it was expected to all season, and after hitting a “rough patch”, the starting pitching has righted the ship. Even Brandon Beachy, who is still ironing out the kinks after coming off the DL, showed a lot of grit in his last start; and rookie starter Alex Wood has looked exceptional (for a rookie) in his last two outings.
Beginning tonight, the Braves have an opportunity that all great teams relish – to bury the competition. Should they sweep the Nationals, giving the team 13 wins in a row, they will find themselves 15.5 games up with 47 to play. This is an all-but-insurmountable deficit for the rest of the division to make up.
Strictly from a numbers standpoint, if the Braves go one game under .500 for those last 47 games (23-24) they will finish the season at 93-69. In order to catch them, the Nationals will need to go 44-4 over their last 48 games, the Phillies 45-3 over their last 48 games, and the New York Mets 46-4 over their last 50 games.
As it sits, the NL East seems all but statistically wrapped up. But if the Braves sweep the Nationals this week, then the race will cease to be a race at all. It appears that the balance of power in the division has been restored.
What the Braves should shoot for next is their first 100-win season since 2003. It will be a tough feat to accomplish, but going 33-17 for the remainder of the season is not at all outside the realm of possibility – especially for a team playing the way the Braves are right now.