For two teams that have been fighting for a division for most of the last couple of seasons, the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves of 2014 couldn’t be any more different. Everything seems to be just about a guarantee for the Nats. They are going to get good enough pitching down the stretch and are going to get timely hits when they need them. The only losses will come when their pitchers are out-dueled by opposing pitchers, which does and will continue to happen.
The Braves are nothing like that at all. In a very strange way they are a team who could either get great pitching down the stretch or could have their pitching staff finally fall apart in the pressure months of the season. They could have an offense good enough to carry them to a division title or they could flop and become a team that must get a quality start every time out to have a chance to win. It actually could go either way. Only a few things about the Braves seem guaranteed.
One thing for sure that is a guarantee right now is that crunch time has arrived early. If the Nationals get a lead right now, they will be very difficult for the Braves to catch. The Nats are playing well through a tough spot in their schedule while the Braves are falling apart through an easier part of their schedule. With series coming up against some of the best teams in MLB, the timing could be worse for the Braves.
Let it be said that they can turn things around, get a few timely losses by the Nats and hang in there until the teams meet head to head. However, if they blink for another week and a half, they’ll be five plus games out before the next Nats series even arrives. As with many things about the Braves, it could go either way. We will just have to wait and see which team shows up between now and then. They very likely will either stay competitive in, or lose, the division in the next few weeks.