Dare I say, “Down the stretch we come…”
What a weekend…
You had a few things that were of particular note, in what was a milestone weekend for baseball. Alex Rodriguez belted his 500th career homer (off ex-Brave Kyle Davies nonetheless). Barry Bonds has etched his name alongside Henry Aaron as baseball’s all-time homerun king with 755. Finally, Tom Glavine finally notched career win number 300. We may never see that many records and milestones reached in 72-hours again.
Meanwhile, the pennant races heat up… and that is where this blog is going…
The trade deadline has now passed (at least the non-waiver variety) and now it’s time to make that stretch run over the final two months.
Atlanta goes into a very important road trip against the first place New York Mets and division rival Phillies in back-to-back 3-game series. While it’s hard to call these games must-wins, it is easy to see that Atlanta needs to down their arch-rivals in order to gain immediate ground in the standings. Atlanta goes out on the road trailing by five games to New York.
Mark Teixeira has seemingly energized the Braves line-up that had already shown an ability to put up runs in bunches. Of course, in the way that baseball works, when you add Teixeira, you lose Edgar Renteria to the 15-day DL and Andruw Jones to a cortizone shot in his left elbow. Jones should be back during the roadtrip, but Renteria could be out longer with a high-ankle sprain.
Atlanta had every right to say they boast the best line-up in the NL East with Teixeira on-board. Now rookie phenom Yunel Escobar, whom the Braves chose to hang on to during the trading frenzy, gets a chance to play everyday. Escobar is fast impressing his teammates with big hits and high-energy play.
Jeff Francoeur is red-hot, hitting .395 over his last 10 games and pushing his average up to .304 on the season following this most recent homestand. The production on the whole has far out-weighed the drop in homers from Jeff this season. The Atlanta right-fielder is on his way to his second consecutive 100+ RBI season, all by the age of 23-years old.
The only real question that Braves fans may be asking, is just how exactly the Braves rotation is going to fair over these final weeks. Tim Hudson has shown he is in top form, while John Smoltz contends that his shoulder irritation subsided in his past start against Colorado. The results weren’t pretty (9-2 loss in which Smoltz allowed 7 runs), but that is a promising report to know that Smoltz may be closer to 100%.
There is still a chance the Braves could deal for an arm during the waiver trade deadline. All players must be placed on waivers to be dealt, a 72-hour period in which any other team can claim him. At that point, the club that placed the player on waivers can either work a trade with the claiming club, allow the claiming club to have the player and assume the contract or they can pull him back off waivers – meaning he cannot again be placed there.
Atlanta is sure to monitor the wire and see what is out there – and at what cost. The Braves have parted ways with a lot of young talent to bring in Teixeira, Mahay, Dotel and Royce Ring. Giving up anymore will beg a long and thought out look at what they’ll get in return. Make no mistake, the Braves are in win-now-mode.
Till Next time,