The Phillies are two-time defending N.L. East champs, but I was reading Mark Bowman's article on MLB.com yesterday in which he wrote: "The Braves currently own the same record the Phillies possessed through the first 124 games in both 2007 and '08."
In other words, Atlanta's postseason hopes are very much alive.
Bowman quoted Chipper Jones as saying, "If we get to ten games over .500 by the end of this month, going into September with a ton of games within our division . . . I like our chances to get where we want to go."
Bowman also points out that Atlanta is 27-15 since July 7, so even if the Braves are unable to catch the Phillies: "If they were able to maintain this same pace over the final 38 games of this season, the Braves would finish with 90 wins - a total that would have been good enough to win the N.L. Wild Card race in each of the past four seasons."
The most encouraging sign - from the perspective of a Braves' fan - however, is that if you go back to July 1, there were three teams in front of the Braves in the division standings, whereas today there is only one. And on that same day, there were eight teams in front of the Braves in the wild card standings, whereas today there are only two.
Atlanta begins a critical three-game set at home vs. San Diego today.
Colorado leads the Wild Card but has eyes on catching the Dodgers out west - those two teams will do battle this week in Denver. San Francisco hosts Arizona, Philly visits Pittsburgh, and Florida hosts New York.
So of the four teams the Braves need to struggle this week, only the Rockies face a stiff test while Atlanta hosts a weak Padres team. Philly is on the road, but you figure at worst they'll still take two of three from Pittsburgh. San Francisco and Florida both return home after losing tough road series' in Colorado and Atlanta, and you have to believe both those teams will take two of three at worst and at least one of them will probably get a sweep.
The pitching match-ups strongly favor the Braves vs. the Padres:
Jurrjens vs. Latos
Kawakami vs. Stauffer
Vazquez vs. Richard
Atlanta has won eight consecutive series vs. San Diego - and if the Braves want to make it back to the postseason for the first time since 2005, a sweep this week to make it nine straight series would be a huge step in the right direction.