When the Atlanta Braves acquired Mark Teixeira at the July 31st non-waiver trading deadline, they acquired something they did not have previously: a bat to play first base. With that acquisition, the National League's Eastern Division race figured to be more interesting than ever. However, the Braves are falling apart, and it appears they may be sitting at home when it comes time for postseason baseball. Consider this:
The Braves have only two consistent pitchers in their lineup. John Smoltz has been decent all year, posting an 11-6 mark with a 3.05 ERA. Tim Hudson has been even better, going 15-5, 3.07 for the year. That being said, nobody else in the starting lineup is getting it done. Chuck James has shown an extreme lack of consistency this year, (9-9, 4.22), and now his injury means Jo-Jo Reyes has to prove himself over the next two weeks, which he has yet to do in his big league career (0-1, 9.62). Lance Cormier is not a starter by trade, but even he has been thrust into the starting rotation, and been hit hard, as evidenced by his 0-4 record and 9.00 earned run average. Finally, Buddy Carlyle (7-5, 4.66) has been a pleasant surprise this season but is cold right now, and is beginning to lose focus, and games. Right now, the Braves do not have the rotation that will enable them to come back into the race for a playoff spot. Plus, even when Atlanta manages to gain a lead, the bullpen is in complete disarray. Octavio Dotel came to Atlanta from Kansas City at the deadline and almost immediately went on the DL. Tyler Yates (2-3, 5.17) has been hit harder than just about everybody on the staff. Rafael Soriano (2-3, 3.72) has been serving up home run derby, giving up six big flies in 17 innings since the break. Finally, Bob Wickman has been solid at home, but cannot seem to get things together when the Braves have to travel. (2-0, 0.40 ERA at Turner Field, 10 of 11 saves converted; 1-2, 7.40, 10 of 15 away from Atlanta)
People applauded GM John Schuerholz's moves at the break. After all, there was limited starting pitching available, and with the addition of Teixeira, this team was set for October. The move has worked well for Teixeira, who is hitting .289 with nine homers and 26 RBI in 20 games for Atlanta. However, the team has not managed to win, and that is what could keep them out of this race. Since the deadline, Atlanta has fallen 2.5 games further behind the Eastern-leading Mets, and the deficit stands at a distant six games. The Braves have managed to stay within two games of the Wild Card-leading San Diego Padres, but cannot seem to make a move to catch, and, ultimately, climb atop the race for the fourth playoff spot. Atlanta (66-61) is running out of time to make their move. In 35 games, if Atlanta has not done so, they could be sitting on their couches, thinking, "What if?"