Two losses in two nights bring the Braves closer to clarity

A Lackey-luster night for the home team. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Losing is never fun, OK? But losing can bring clarity to a team that had, through 90 games, been better than we and maybe the team itself expected. The Atlanta Braves awoke Monday at .500, 9 1/2 games out of first place in the National League East, six games back of the second wild card.

Two days later, the same Braves are 45-47, which isn’t a great deal worse than 45-45, but the standings are rather different. The Braves are 11 1/2 games behind Washington, meaning that race — not that it ever was much of one — has been settled. They’re eight games out of a playoff spot, which is a lot. They’re now even with the Pirates, who have been a disappointment, and behind the Cardinals, who have by exalted Redbird standards been pedestrian.

We stipulate that this is baseball, where teams play every day. A five-game winning streak could rearrange all dynamics. But the Braves face the Cubs again today, and then they head to L.A. for four games against a team that was already good and has gotten frighteningly so.

The Dodgers are on a 10-game winning streak. They’re on pace to win 112 games, which would be the best by a National League team since the Cubs — yes, the Cubs — in 1906. Their probable starter Friday night is Alex Wood, the former Brave who hasn’t lost this season. Their Sunday starter is scheduled to be Clayton Kershaw, about whom we say no more.

Only 48 hours ago, we wondered (seriously) if the Braves were a playoff team. Over that span, their odds of qualifying for postseason have been — this according to FanGraphs — have been more than halved. They were 4.8 percent; they’re now 2.3 percent. In our heart of hearts, we always figured this was a massive boats-against-the-current deal. The past two long nights at SunTrust Park have only underscored the point.

The Braves nearly pulled out a game Monday they didn’t deserve to win. They were beaten 5-1 Tuesday by a Cubs starter who’d just exited the disabled list and was believed to be ticketed for the bullpen, what with the arrival of Jose Quintana and the expected return of Kyle Hendricks. But John Lackey, terrible all season, handled the Braves.

Again, it was one game. (Or two, counting Monday.) Again, these Braves responded to two blowouts by Houston by halving a series in D.C. and then, after the All-Star break, sweeping Arizona. The reason we hadn’t yet dismissed their chances was because they refused to go away. But now a discouraging word: By week’s end, they could be all but gone.

In the here and now, that would be disappointing. In the grand scheme, it probably would be for the best. It would allow John Coppolella to approach the July 31 trade deadline without having to worry that his clubhouse would revolt if Brandon Phillips/Jaime Garcia/Matt Adams/Julio Teheran get moved.

Asked Monday what his deadline approach would be, Coppolella offered this: “The best thing we can do for our team, our players and our fans is to seek out opportunities that will make us better in both the short and long term. There are options out there for us that fit what we are seeking, but we need to be careful in assessing the cost-benefit analysis.”

You’re free to parse those words as you like, but here’s how I took them: “We want to give this team every chance to win, but we don’t want to do anything that jeopardizes the rebuild we put in place 20-some months ago.” And that, you’d have to say, would be the only prudent approach. The Braves have put too much into this tear-down-to-build-up to compromise any part of it in the attempt to qualify for a postseason that might last one game.

As deflating as the two losses to the Cubs were, they came at a useful moment. The deadline is 12 days away. That’s a finite thing. The Braves will have to make some sort of choice — fish/cut bait — by the last day of July. That choice will be easier if the numbers show that the 2017 team has no realistic playoff chance.

Weekly readings:

If Dansby Swanson isn’t going to play here, he shouldn’t be here.

Cubs win. But the Braves nearly gave us another finish.

Big game, Cubs in town. Dansby Swanson isn’t in the Braves’ lineup.

Serious (and shocking) question: Are the Braves a playoff team?

Reader Comments 0

17 comments
sea8491
sea8491

Sure hope the Brave Brain Trust does not act on such non sense

Just got beaten by the cubs for three straight games and Teheran pitched the best game of the series and some fans are calling for Teheran to be traded?


sea8491
sea8491


Just curious, are there any ace pitchers available as free agents next year?


Steve Lemon
Steve Lemon

If you're referring to the current Braves team, I believe you have it wrong. I didn't think they were ever in contention for the wildcard to begin with. The Braves could have won 2 out 3 or even swept the Cubs to go a game or 3 up and it still would not have excited me. As I have been saying all along, you might see a trade or 2 for some controllable players that can help us 2-3 years from now. I say stay the course and let's have a legitimate ball club. With that said I think that Garcia and Phillips are as good as gone.

ChessMaster
ChessMaster

Say what you want about the current team but I don't think Coppolella is fooled. He knows what he has and receives updates every day. His focus is to build for the future, but also take tactical advantage, when possible, for this season. 


I wouldn't be surprised to see Matt Adams and Philips traded in the next few days. Both have value. Philips has the potential to help a contender this year, and Adams offers left handed power and multi-year contract control. That still leaves Garcia, Swanson, Rodriguez, and Freeman (the originally planned infield) with Camargo, Ruiz, Micah Johnson, Peterson, and Albies as other options. 


As for pitchers, the Braves have several that can help a contender win this year. The question is as always, what do they get back?



kerryb
kerryb

@ChessMaster I think they have been shopping Garcia for a few days.  He will probably be the first to be traded.  The Braves are not winning anything this season.

Sidslid
Sidslid

The Braves standard for young power lefty is Steve Avery. Newcombe is Charlie Liebrandt in the 10th at Minnesota quality.

kerryb
kerryb

@Sidslid You're wrong.  Reminds me a lot of Avery.  I think the guy has only had 6-7 starts in the majors so far.  Garcia reminds me of Charlie Liebrandt.

TomGaff
TomGaff

Keep changing the line-up every day and the losing starts? Rodquiez & swanson have no business in the starting line-up!

TomGaff
TomGaff

Guess what, I was completely right. Swanson struck out with runners at 2nd & 3rd with one out early in the game when it was in contention! Rodriquez looks  lost(not enough time in minors) and Swanson looks lost also at the plate. Change the line-up daily and this is what happens!! Kemp looks like the old -guy he is! Relievers are TERRIBLE!! Go ahead trade Phillips and Matt Adams, this crap will happen almost every nite! Embarrassing!! This old line-up jelled together, these guys seem lost! Now, we are ready for some FOOTBALL?

UpWithTheWhiteAndGold
UpWithTheWhiteAndGold

Was the expectation the Braves would be contending for a playoff spot this year or that they were on-par with the best teams in the league? 


Earlier in the year you were talking about the rebuilding plan and how the Braves are doing just fine. 


Let's not get ahead of ourselves. 

MaybeMaybeNot
MaybeMaybeNot

The Braves just lost 2 straight games to the defending WS Champs and you are thinking this is a reality check?  This is baseball, 162 games, a marathon.  This isn't football. 

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

Not two damn days ago you were squawking about "playoff chances." Jesus, man, take a vacation. Clear your head.

GymAnalytics315
GymAnalytics315

8 games back in the Wildcard but only 6 in the loss column.  Remember, you can make up wins, you just can't make up losses.

GymAnalytics315
GymAnalytics315

Can two wins in two nights also bring them closer to clarity?