Can’t you just see it? Fifteen days from now, the Atlanta Braves will have swept four games from Pittsburgh to clinch the second wild card and the champagne will be flowing in the home clubhouse at Turner Field — yes, teams celebrate being the runner-up of runners-up — and the soggy Braves will turn to the cameras and proclaim,” Nobody believed in us! Everybody counted us out! Everybody said this wasn’t possible!”
And that last part will be true. Look around today. Nobody believes in the Braves. Everybody has counted them out. Everybody is saying even a second wild card isn’t possible.
But back to our first sentence: Can’t you just see such a happy conclusion now? Actually, no. We can’t.
The Braves are giving us no reason to believe. They’ve dropped three consecutive series. They’ve lost six of eight games. They’re 16-23 since July 28. They had a losing August. They are having a losing September. They trail the Pirates by 1 1/2 games for the second wild card and are tied with Milwaukee, which has won one of its past 14 games.
Heck, the Braves have already lost a series to Washington, which is something they’d done only one other time in two calendar years. They trail the Nats by nine games with 17 remaining. The National League East is all but gone. All that’s left is the wild card, and Baseball Prospectus affords the Braves only a 24.8 percent chance of claiming that.
In sum, things look awful. The Braves look awful. They haven’t had a lead in a game since Saturday, which was four days ago. If we’re counting them out, it’s because they’ve done nothing to suggest they’re capable of rallying.
But we cannot lose sight of one pesky fact: The season’s not over. They do have 17 games remaining. They are within two days of pulling ahead of the Pirates. They do play the Pittsburghers here four times in the regular season’s final week. I’ll concede that, at the rate they’re falling, the Braves are more likely to finish behind the Marlins than ahead of the Bucs, but 2 1/2 weeks is a long time.
Please understand. I’m not predicting an epic charge. I’ve seen so much of these Braves that I’ve come to expect bad, as opposed to good. But the season — I say again — remains ongoing, which means there’s still a chance. About a 24.8 percent chance, give or take.