The Braves remind us that they can play, too

Three of these guys are already gone. (AP photo/David Tulis)

Justin Upto, Jason Heyward, Andrelton Simmons, Phil Gosselin

Oh happy Braves! A sweep is complete! (David Tulis/AP)

A homestand that might have been the Atlanta Braves’ last stand of 2014 became something rather different. For the first time a long while, they proved they can beat somebody good besides Washington. They reminded us that they can play, too.

They swept the Oakland A’s, who have baseball’s best record no more, after nearly being swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The homestand ended with the home team going 6-4, which mightn’t sound like much until we recall that, as of Friday morning, you’d surely have predicted 4-6 if not 3-7. They even beat two excellent pitchers — the A’s Sonny Gray and Jon Lester — to close the 10-game set.

All of which means: The Braves are back in this thing. They probably won’t win the National League East — the Nats have gone undefeated since leaving here and lead by 6 1/2 games — but the wild card is very much in play. They’re 1 1/2 games back in the runner-up chase, and they’re about to face the Pirates, with whom they’re tied.

The Braves’ playoff odds, which dipped around 20 percent midway through last week, have been bumped back to 32.8 percent. (This per ESPN.) In sum, they just gave themselves a chance, and they did it against the toughest part of their schedule. This isn’t to say they’re a lock to reach October now — this bunch is never a lock to do anything except confuse us — but the Braves won’t face another run of 10 such daunting games the rest of the regular season. They’ve got a shot.

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47 comments
dawg4u
dawg4u

The sweep of the A's was sweet and alleviated my foul mood of the team's recent performance somewhat. We need to aspire to a wild card playoff status because the team is just too far behind the Nats given our recent results in games. I just don't think our team is capable of any long winning streaks or 10 out of 12  type runs and we all know we can lose 3 or 4 in a row looking at this year.  The Nats can beat anyone except us it seems. It has been a crazy season in that regard. We own the Nats head to head and sweep the team with the best record in baseball but are below average against theW other teams and constantly struggle to score runs. To win 90 games - we would need to go 26-12 the rest of the way - possible but not very likely given our inconsistency this season. Wild card should be the mindset. That could definitely happen as we are only 1 1/2 out in the WC race and 6 1/2 in the divisional race.


Pat_Pending
Pat_Pending

We/I love to bash Wren for acquiring BJ but we have to "tip our friggin' cap" to him for Justin, who has been a life-saver with timely hits and power.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

It all raises the specter of what might have been had the club not been over-invested in Uggla and BJ. Those two players were SUPPOSED to provide the veteran leadership and about 50 home runs and 150+ RBI (ponder that for a moment and consider where the Braves would be). Every infusion of youth seems to further energize this VERY young lineup, and now there is some emerging depth on the infield. To make a serious run they probably need more seasoning and a better bench, but the core of the team has a bright future. Don't count out the Braves in 2014 just yet, there is a long way to go and crazy things can happen.

kerryb
kerryb

The problem is that while the Braves are playing their toughest stretch of the season the Nats are not playing the best of teams.

DrPhill
DrPhill

The worst thing that can happen to Braves' fans would be for the Braves to somehow end up in the wildcard, post another meaningless pennent, and have Homer and Sutton boast about how good the team is. The team and attendance must continue to tank before the bean counters at Liberty Media decide something must change at the top.

Phillipdj
Phillipdj

Gosselin and Bonifacio can play multiple positions on defense and are adept and getting in base - ie - keeping innings alive. When you have 4 high risk/high rewards players like Gattis, Jup, CJ and Heyward, you HAVE to fill the rest of the lineup with on base guys.

Having BJ in there is like having a second pitcher in the lineup. It just kills scoring opportunities - at least 2 per game.

Freddie will lose his job if Braves fail to qualify while he keeps trotting out Bossman Jr. I'm not a "hater" and I feel bad for the guy, but something really wrong has happened between his ears. Sports psychologist between now and next May and see if that helps - but bench him until then. He makes for a top notch pinch runner.

MikeS777
MikeS777

The good news for the Braves is that all but 3 remaining games are against the NL East and NL Central, the two divisions they have played the best against by far.  They have a losing inter-league record, and have gotten pummeled by the NL West.  They have a winning record against the NL East and have done even better against the NL Central.

Unfortunately most of Washington's games are against the divisions they have played best against as well (NL East and NL West), so it might be too much to expect a division title.  The Wild card seems to be very much in reach though.

MikeS777
MikeS777

This was a good series sweep for the Braves overall image considering where the A's stand, but as ESPN touched on last night, this A's team has not been the same since they made the big trade for Jon Lester.  They traded Yoenis Cespedes to Boston who was a big bat in their lineup.  His loss coupled with some injuries has taken the punch out of the batting order for Oakland.  They were averaging around 5 runs per game before the trade, and have been averaging around 3 per game since.  An AL West lead has evaporated, and they find themselves tied with the Angels now.

So yeah this is still a good win for the Braves, but it's over an A's team playing the worst baseball of their season right now.  The A's may have given up too much to create that starting staff they have now.

Sidslid
Sidslid

Pirates and Cardinals will be the wildcards.  McCutcheon will be back for the September schedule.  Pittsburgh will grab two wins from Atlanta this week anyway.


Let's deal with the future.  They need to give J Upton an extension.  He is rock solid.  Pull it off by Santana's contract coming off the books and trading Heyward.

KOREY
KOREY

Uggla's gone so now everyone is blaming BJ for the Braves woes. Really? Carry on

Wilbo
Wilbo

I despise the gutless Atlanta Braves. Even more so, I despise the homer buffoons who write about them. This team isn't going anywhere, and somehow squeaking into baseball's ridiculous expanded playoffs is a curse not a blessing. Getting in the playoffs and not competing as per usual will be taken as a sign of phantom success by the morons who own and run this team, and the fans of the Braves will be guaranteed a whole boatload more of the depressing mediocrity we have been saddled w these many years.

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

Chris Johnson's golf swing actually made contact with a baseball and it produced a homerun.  We can now expect 14 more days of strike outs from him, watching his uppercut regularly whiff at balls going in an opposite arc (downward).  The Braves (due to legal concerns) are still unwilling to play their old cardboard cutout of Deon Sanders in centerfield, batting it eighth.  It would not be able to field a liner hit slightly to its left or right, but it will look cool taking three strikes for an out.  Having an inanimate object do that is more excusable than B.J. Upton being in a major league lineup.    


The series against the A's can be summed up as quitters who no longer felt any pressure to win actually played like that which made them major leaguers in the first place.  Now (gulp) they are back in it?  (teeth chatter, knees knocking) Rut roh.


Tell me about a sweep in Pittsburgh and the Braves actually being in control of a Wild Card, only 3 games behind the Washington Graft-takers, then it might be possible to say, "they are back in this thing."

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

If they treat this like a business and not a Little League team, BJ goes to Gwinnett until he learns to shorten his swing and utilize his speed, play reasonable defense, and hustle.

TEB1
TEB1

What is Bradley smoking talking about wild card chances...So what if the Braves finally did in three games what they should have been doing all season...This team as constructed by Wren is awful...better to dismantle this team now than to watch them make the playoffs just so they can strikeout when the game is on the line...Fire Wren now!

lovesthegame
lovesthegame

How do you say you are in the hunt for a wildcard spot when you continue to March BJ out there every night.  On TV last night they showed that his BA over the past 2 years of .209 was the lowest in MLB.  In the past 10 games he has 4 hits and is batting .143.  For the month of August he has 5 hits and is batting .114 with .220 OBP and 18Ks in 44 AB (41%)!!!!!!!  He did hit the ball hard twice last night but both were in his one hot zone of down and in.  Fredi cannot mange the high-paid players.  He can bench LaStella for batting .245 in August after batting .300 before a slight slump but refuses to bench BJ.  Gosselin can play LF, move Justin to RF and Heyward to CF (a vast improvement) and put LaStella back at second.


Minor has a second big game performance last night.  Hope he can keep it up.

highfive
highfive

The Braves did nothing to change opinion that they are a mediocre team, that managed to win a few games, like any mediocre team is want to do. Until they bench or release BJ removing the temptation to insert him into the lineup they will continue to struggle,

Mr. Negative
Mr. Negative

BJ is just awful. His ridiculous play in the 8th cost us a run. Good thing Kimbrel was on. I hope doofus Wren was up in the box watching O'flaharty pitch. Guys having a lights out season after doofus let him walk over $2 mil. Best lefty set up guy in MLB. But Frankie had someone better to take his place...NOT

GTQBdefender
GTQBdefender

BJ did hit major league pitching twice. He hit two line drives that with any luck would have been hits. No he is not earning his pay. Sometimes agents do too good a job in getting players contracts that are much better than the player actually is.

Then the fans will be on his back from day one with those on the fence joining as things go on.

I curse him but have to pull for him in spite of such feelings. 

MLB lawyers are, evidently, not as smart as NFL lawyers. The NFL has guaranteed money in their contracts but if the team wants out, they can not make a payment and the player becomes a free agent.

MLB badly needs this but probably will never get it.

The owners did not use the strike and the later near strike to get it.

I think the Yankees like things like they are where they can usually outbid everyone.

mgunter
mgunter

BJ is confused and helpless at th plate. 7 errors in Cf leads th major leagues. Get him off th roster till he can figure it out. Painful to watch him currently.

THEBITTERTRUTH
THEBITTERTRUTH

As long as they play BJ they are not a serious threat to do anything but stay home in October. HE CANNOT HIT! They are giving the opposition 3-4 guaranteed extra outs per game and over the long haul this will equal failure. I just do not understand why FG or Wren do not get this. If BJ was capable of improving he would have done it. He can no longer hit major league pitching. Wishing and hoping that he will turn it around and playing him is just plain stupid.

SeaDog46
SeaDog46

Oakland was foolish to trade Cespedes.........How could they lose 3 games to one of the worst hitting teams in baseball? Still too many strikeouts in the Braves lineup. As long as FG plays the inept Upton they are toast.

THEBITTERTRUTH
THEBITTERTRUTH

As long as they play BJ they are not a serious threat to do anything but stay home in October. HE CANNOT HIT! They are giving the opposition 3-4 guaranteed extra outs per game and over the long haul this will equal failure. I just do not understand why FG or Wren do not get this.

FJ10
FJ10

Remind us?  I thought this was your opinion.

aulner
aulner

The offense has seemed to stablize itself.  I still can't see why Fredi is playing BJ so much.

Savdon
Savdon

Ok. In other words, don't get too worked up in anticipation of success because one can expect to be disappointed at the moment of truth.  (That better?)

RangeRover
RangeRover

Come on Mark!   Any MLB team can get cold for a few games (the A's) or hot (the Braves's). Even the most horrible teams ever to play will win 60 baseball games during the season.

This team is rotten to the core and in that core is Fredi Gonzalez, Frank Wren and BJ Upton.

I'm certainly thrilled they picked themselves up and beat a team in Oakland trying to get to the finish line, but they are who they are, and who they are is a team burdened with to many streak hitters, the worst CF in the game, and the dumbest manager in the game.  I will say that Gosselin and La Stella have been a breath of fresh air...need more contact, situational hitters.

And Heyward is not a lead-off hitter.

DrPhill
DrPhill

Admittedly the Braves were a different team, with the exception of BJ, who was business as usual.

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

It's great to see them show some life rather than totally pack it in. Gobelin seems to have made a difference. Thank goodness for a strong farm team!

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

They seem to play better at home.  The next road trip will determine their chances, they need to play better on the road. 

JackClemens
JackClemens

At least I'm first. I'm keeping my Braves expectations low, so I cannot be disappointed if they continue to move between wildly inconsistent to stinky..

DawgNole
DawgNole

@DrPhill

I don't believe they give pennants to division winners, do they?

58Supersports
58Supersports

@Sidslid  agree with you on future.. re-sign J-Up, trade J_Hey... give BJ to any one that will take him.  If you can sign Santana for fair price do it,  he is a class act  and I love to watch him pitch.

Mr. Negative
Mr. Negative

@KOREY Yeah how could anybody blame the regular with the worst BA in MLB the past two years. Not to mention his stellar fielding.

Mr. Negative
Mr. Negative

@Wilbo Oh yeah....the moniker of "winningest team in baseball the past four years" will be thrown around like it takes the place of actually winning a playoff SERIES, much less a title. Anything to keep the suckers coming thru the gates and add to Liberty's bottomline. P T Barnum would be proud.

Wilbo
Wilbo

@BooBooBear I would almost pay to see a game w a cardboard cut-out of Deion in center.


Along w Smoltz, Fred McGriff and Marquis Grissom among my favorite Braves ever. Okay, I admit it, I really liked Klesko. At least at first. But, of course, a player like Deion w a burning passion to make something happen and win could never ever ever fit in on a current Bravos' roster. Never.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

@lovesthegame  "For the month of August he has 5 hits"  --- if those were on consecutive days Homer would be touting the hitting streak!

58Supersports
58Supersports

@RangeRover...  Agree with you RangeRover, good to catch a team that was in a slump.. Pirates are no joke but missing there great CF.

ChopChamps95
ChopChamps95

@TreeRollins  More like weak farm system that is completely absent of any good position players not named Bethancourt, Peraza, or Davidson.  Cap the magic markers.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

@58Supersports @Sidslid  I wouldn't be so quick to trade J-Hey, but a move to re-sign Justin would appear to be prudent. At this point the Braves would have to sacrifice a valuable player just to get some other team to take on BJ at a minimum salary, eating up a roster spot, because he really has no positive baseball value on the field. I hope he comes around, but I suspect the Braves ultimately wind up paying BJ to follow Uggla into the sunset. Maybe if the A's are desperate enough . . . (just hoping)