So the Braves will be in the playoffs — and not just one do-or-die wildcard game. And if they play anything like they did in August, they should win. But if not — well, lately their hitting has been anemic, creating anxiety among us fans eager for another World Series.
Remember that the Braves started that long winning streak on the heels of adversity — the loss of their pitching ace, Tim Hudson, knocked out for the season with a broken right ankle as he covered first base in a game against the New York Mets.
But it was like nothing had happened because the team went on a tear, showing a new level of intensity and sweeping three series in a row both at home and away. Pitchers Mike Minor, Kris Medlen and Julio Teheran turned in ace performances to keep the streak going, backed up by terrific hitting across the lineup. And what about closer Craig Kimbrel who should get at least 50 saves before the season ends.
You might say it’s improbable that the Braves have won the East, considering all the injuries. No doubt, injuries affected the hitting and run production. Only in the last few games has outfielder Jason Heyward returned after recovering from a broken jaw inflicted by an errant pitch. Before his injury, he was setting the pace with hits as lead-off man. He needs to get back in the groove if Atlanta is to go all the way.
Ditto for outfielder Justin Upton and his brother, B.J., who missed a lot of games because of injuries, and second baseman Dan Uggla who had eye surgery which, it was hoped, would get him back on track with the bat, but except for a few spurts it hasn’t. Both Uggla and B. J. Upton were benched by manager Fredi Gonzalez for a couple of weeks.
Gonzalez obviously is hoping that one or both of these players — who have contributed in the past — will come around during the playoffs. As mlb.com reported, Gonzalez said, “The playoffs are a different season. … Guys who hit .400 during the season go 0-for and guys who are struggling are MVPs during the postseason. So hopefully, that is the case.”
Braves batters got just enough hits to defeat the Milwaukee Brewers last night in the ninth inning with a walk-off single by Andrelton Simmons to drive in a run and make the final score 3-2. That kept Atlanta one-half game ahead of St. Louis in the race for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Hopefully, it’s the spark the team needs to finish out the season on a high note and clinch home-field advantage — because the Braves play their best at home.