Braves Can Make Statement Against Nationals

Will Nationals Park give the Braves a wake-up call?

Will Nationals Park give the Braves a wake-up call?

The Atlanta Braves have the opportunity the next three days to make a statement against the Washington Nationals.  The Braves can clinch the National League East, by winning 2 of the next 3 games against the Nationals in Washington.  They can also derail Washington’s late bid to claim a wildcard spot.

Atlanta has coasted the past few weeks with their double-digit lead.  The Braves are 6-8 in September and just lost a home series against the lowly San Diego Padres.  Fredi Gonzalez has rested his regulars and there has been little sense of urgency.

The hot Dodgers have cooled off and not made a serious run, so the Braves have maintained their 2+ lead for the National League best record.  Although, it doesn’t really seem that attaining the National League’s best record has been serious motivation to the Braves.  They give it lip service, but it seems to be a distant second to the goal of resting players, and doing everything possible to justify B.J. Upton‘s $15 million salary, by continuing to play him when possible.

With the chance to wrap up the division on Washington turf, and snuff the Nationals’ playoff hopes, there is a fair amount on the line in this series.  Can the Braves snap out of their malaise and flip on the switch back on against the hot Nationals?

The big concern I see is that a baseball season is more like a dump truck than a race car.  Teams have to keep their forward momentum going, ’cause it is very difficult to switch momentum on, once it has been turned off.  Be interesting to see if the Braves can get focused again with something on the line.

Are you concerned that this big lead has lulled the Braves to sleep?

About Jim Hart

Jim has covered the Atlanta Braves since 2008 for local and national broadcast news organizations. He also appears regularly talking Braves baseball on WCCP-FM in Clemson, South Carolina, and the ESPN Radio affiliate, 1420 Sports in St. Augustine, Florida.

  • dan harvey

    Clinching too early seems to be a challenge in and of itself. I think being healthy is the most important factor even more than home field advantage. The Nats are on a mission right now. I think the Braves will have their hands full for the next few days.
    The Braves have 4 out of 5 of the infield positions that are practically as good as you could want. McCann, Freeman, Simmons, and Johnson are all awesome players. Need Heyward back out there anchoring the outfield. The Braves have not had much from the leadoff spot lately. Hopefully Heyward can get back on track there as well or maybe Schafer can get going again. Left field is solid. The Braves position players will be fired up for the playoffs and will produce enough offensively I think. Actually, I still think this team is an offensive juggernaut waiting to happen. The pitching has been real good all year. Here is hoping the Braves get really hot in the playoffs. Whichever team does wins.

    • BravesBeliever

      Agree 100%, Dan. Excellent observations. My only point is that the problem is not the skill sets, for I have no doubt they are there and that they are there in abundance; however, my recent observations tell my admittedly untrained, amateur eye that It is not merely the skill sets at play here but, rather, the manner, if at all, that those skill sets are applied. My concern is that, in the great scheme of things, without a clear recognition of where a team is, where that team needs to be and, most importantly, a firm grasp of the need for a sense of urgency, those skill sets may very well be squandered. And it’s not like we haven’t seen THAT unfortunate occurrence in the not so distant past. While I hope and fervently pray that the accuracy of your predictions will make Nostradamus look like a blind buffoon without a vision, that is not to say that I do not have concerns. May you be right or may the Braves heed my warning or, preferably, both because, Holy Mother of Zeus, I do SO want to see our Bravos clinch and sweep in this Nats series and go on to secure home field advantage. As a matter of fact, I would pay Powerball money to see it! (if I had it*)

      *Note: if I do win the Powerball and the Braves secure all of the above, you ALL will be invited to the Braves party of the century and I’ll buy the World Series seats for everyone who regularly posts on “Atlanta Bullpen” and, to quote one of the great philosophers of our time (from Duck Dynasty), “that’s a fact, Jack!!”

      • http://atlantabullpen.com/ Jim Hart

        Good luck on the Powerball Believer, may I assume as an internationally famous blog owner that I will have a “guest of honor” seat at the proceedings? :>)

        • BravesBeliever

          Absolutely!

    • http://atlantabullpen.com/ Jim Hart

      Schafer has gone into a tailspin both times when he was injured this season. I’m confident he can get it going again, but his batting average sure takes a hit in the process.

  • BravesBeliever

    My answer is most definitely in the most assertive affirmative, Jim, and here is why:

    It is axiomatic that a major league baseball team should play to win every game like it is Game 7 of the World
    Series. And well they should; however, we all know that does not happen and is probably not even a realistic nor even a reasonable expectation. On the other hand, they should and, more realistically, there comes a point in time in every season, for every team who is in the heat of the battle chasing a pennant, a World Series berth and, ultimately, a World Championship when this axiom becomes more than a lofty goal and becomes an imperative. That time has come for the Braves. In fact, it has been here for some time, given the critical need for home field advantage.

    It is my hope that the gravity of the upcoming series with the Nationals will dislodge the Braves from what is a crystal clear absence of a SENSE OF URGENCY. Not desperation, by any means.That would be a mistake. However, they do desperately need a sense of urgency that is glaringly absent at this moment. For the last few series’, rather than playing with that sense of urgency and the fervor of a team playing to win every game like it is Game 7 of the Series, the Braves have been playing with complacency and contentment that borders on the edge of a deep precipice. They possess what they perceive to be a wide margin lead which has been dwindled considerably (cut just a few games short of half of its previously monstrous margin). It would be very wise of the team and be of incomparable value if the Braves players and coaching staff seriously reviewed and considered the ramifications of the recently unspeakable past which they are destined to repeat if they ignore it. Yet, yesterday, there was a good deal of lifelessness on the bench (which translated to the field of play), clear signs of joking around, horseplay, frivolity, inappropriate laughter for a team down 4 runs. There was no sign of any attempt to pump each other up in an effort to come back and win yesterday’s game. Rather, in general, I watched closely and observed a very unsettling sense of malaise rather than that indispensable sense of urgency. This is not the proper attitude nor the proper aptitude of a team seriously contemplating and really digging down deep to win “the whole show”, especially a team that is losing by four against a mediocre opponent, to whom they went 5-1 on the season series and, most unsettlingly, on the very eve of what is clearly the most important series of their Season.

    I am an optimist. I love my Bravos with a loyalty which I will say is second to none. I have watched every pitch of every inning of every game, every pre-game show, every post-game show and all of what little MLB and other sports
    outlets broadcast regarding my beloved Atlanta Braves. However, I must say that the Braves are way past the time for serious adoption of a sense of urgency which is unequal to anything they have every embraced all Season and, more importantly, equal to the crucial twin goal task ahead of them, i.e., not only (a) winning the division-which is a hopefully easily obtainable goal though not absolutely certain at this point but also (b) winning home field advantage via the status of holding the best record in the National League which is HUGE for this team, given their absolutely mind-boggling success at home. Go Braves!! (….but go with a sense of serious urgency) Slam the Nats!! once and for all!!

    • http://atlantabullpen.com/ Jim Hart

      Believer, I share your optimism that the Braves can turn things around, but like you say it has to start now. A somewhat scary thought: a Nationals sweep would cut the Braves lead down to 7! Still a hefty lead with not many games left, which would be almost impossible to blow. Yet, it would be very unsettling if it does indeed happen.

  • Lee

    Ditto BravesBeliever! What else can be said, other than any news on Heyward today?

  • Al

    The only thing Uggli has going for him, is he hustles. The Uptons and Uggli have to go and Shafer is a back-up at best.

  • rogerheld

    From what I can see, the “rest” has most affected the pitchers. Position players sit periodically anyway and don’t necessarily lose their groove. But pitchers need to keep pitching. The best ones get stronger and better and tend to dominate in August every year. The recent performances, especially, of Teheran, Medlen, and Wood seem to attest to this. If I were going to rest my pitchers, I would either skip a day (not skip a start) or pitch on schedule but have them have a short start. Why do they have to let Kameron Loe or Freddy Garcia start? Let them pitch the middle innings after short starts.
    I am also not convinced Freddi is using the best strategies in testing and setting his lineups. I still think that JUpt is really misplaced in the 2-hole. Simmons doesn’t belong there either until he can control the bat better (can’t bunt can’t hit to opposite field), but he has been great in the 8-hole. Just because Heyward sparked the lineup in the leadoff spot doesn’t mean JUpt did anything better by being in the 2-hole. Gattis doesn’t hit when he catches – not sure anyone is picking up on that. Maybe that will come next year. I agree about Schaefer losing his mojo with any injury. I’m not sure why they couldn’t try E. Johnson at leadoff and Schaefer at #2. Might be good for Schaefer to get comfortable again. C. Johnson has been best at #7 too. Nobody except Freeman and C. Johnson have exceeded expectations for the whole season. It’s amazing they are where they are. They need to win a lot of 2-1 and 3-2 games – it’s all about the pitching this year.