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Oscar Salazar, Nick Hundley, and Tony Gwynn, Jr. batted six, seven, and eight in the Padres' lineup last night, but combined to go 7 for 12 with a triple, home run, and three RBI vs. Colorado. Not bad, especially considering the Elias Sports Bureau dug up this tidbit: the Padres are batting a major league worst .227 from the six-seven-eight slots on the season.

The lower part of the Padres' lineup rallied past the Rockies 5-4, overcoming an early 3-0 deficit and scoring four runs in the final two innings. Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki took the loss in stride, insisting afterwards, "We control our destiny . . . we're in a good spot."

And he's right, of course.

And yet . . .  Atlanta is now only 3.5 games back with ten games left on its schedule. Colorado has just nine games left on its schedule. Atlanta was off on Thursday, preparing for a crucial three-game series that begins today in Washington.

Not to get ahead of ourselves, but a Braves win and a Rockies loss tonight cuts the deficit to 2.5, and that's vitally important for more than just the obvious reasons - yeah, we want to catch those guys, but since we can only play one game at a time, a deficit of just 2.5 games and we can force the issue all the way through the season's final weekend when the Rockies must travel to LA and the Braves get to host the Nationals.

If that happens, I imagine Tulowitzki and his teammates, who insist they aren't feeling any pressure yet, might start to get a little jittery.

Hey, you never know.

The bottom line is Atlanta must sweep the Nationals this weekend and hope that St. Louis can take two of three in Colorado. The Rockies will get next Monday off and then close out the season with a six-game road trip - three in Milwaukee and three in LA.

There are no more off days for the Braves - three games at Washington, three at home vs. Florida, and then four at home vs. Washington.

After struggling in June, Atlanta won 16 games in July, 17 in August, and entering play today the club is 13-8 in September - just enough to make things interesting with ten games to go. "Anything's possible," according to Bobby Cox, who added, "keep winning and see what they [Rockies] do."

After a sizzling 21-7 June, Colorado has kept the pressure up, winning 15 games in July, 16 in August, and posting a 14-8 record to this point in September.

How do the Braves and Rockies matchup vs. their final opponents?

Atlanta is 7-4 vs. Washington and 7-8 vs. Florida. Colorado is 4-0 vs. St. Louis, 3-0 vs. Milwaukee, and 3-12 vs. LA.

I get that every game is an independent event, for sure - but one can hope that the prospect of sweeping two season series' is a daunting one at best. So while the Braves realistically can hope to sweep the Nationals this weekend, I can't see the Rockies doing better than 4-2 vs. St. Louis and Milwaukee. If we're lucky, it might even be 2-4.

Of course what the Rockies do only matters if the Braves take care of business vs. Washington.

Javier Vazquez gets the nod tonight and he's the right guy to toe the rubber as the Braves look to finish strong - he's 3-0 with a 0.78 earned run average in his last three starts.

And the Rockies, well, they get to face Cy Young candidate Chris Carpenter tonight - so you never know, this time tomorrow it's entirely possible that Braves fans will have even more reason to be optimistic about October baseball.

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