Department of redundancy department…
September is just around the corner, which means there are pennants to be clinched and Wild Cards to be had in the hunt for not-so-red October.
The Braves have been battling to find the consistency needed to start winning games in bunches, while avoiding the prolonged losing streaks that have plagued them all season. Win three, lose three – Win two-out-of-three, lose two-out-of-three. Since starting the season 6-1, Atlanta has battled to string together a run that would make up ground in the battle for the NL East.
Mark Teixeira has proven to be every bit as good as advertised in his time with Atlanta. Though the Braves hold just a 10-10 record since acquiring the switch-hitting powerhouse. ‘Big Tex’ has scorched NL pitching, hitting .289 with nine homers and 26 RBI. Those nine homers give him the league lead for the month of August. Certainly a good first impression for his teammates and fans alike.
Losing Edgar Renteria was a blow to the team, perhaps larger than realized by the casual fan. Sure, Yunel Escobar is a wonderful option to have – and he has filled in admirably in Renteria’s stead. But the veteran presence and polished play of Renteria may be one of the most often overlooked aspects of the club over the past two season.
Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann ushered in the new generation of future stars, while Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones have joined John Smoltz as the long-time faces of the franchise. Even Teixeira’s arrival has generated more attention that the steadily underrated play of Renteria. Atlanta is dealing with a lack of depth coming off the bench, with Escobar forced into everyday play.
And, so here is where the redundancy part comes in:
It is not the offense or the thin corps of reserves that routinely plagues the Braves. Starting pitching after Smoltz and Tim Hudson has become a real problem. Chuck James has found himself on the 15-day DL, and it appears that Buddy Carlyle may be turning back into a pumpkin sooner than later. The fifth starters spot has been particularly troublesome. Lance Cormier and Jo-Jo Reyes (recently recalled from Richmond) don’t exactly strike fear in the heart of the opposition with a combined record of 0-5 and a 9.30 ERA.
There is still some time for Atlanta to search for another starter, but the market is pretty much barren. All other options must clear waivers for a deal to happen, which is when the general manager’s game of chess comes into play. David Wells was an option, before reportedly agreeing to a deal with the L.A. Dodgers on Thursday. There Braves face a clear dilemma.
Until the rotation solidifies and starts handing the bullpen a six inning performance, then the relievers are going to continue to be over-worked. Having the pen routinely pitch 4+ innings is the fast-track to having worn out arms losing some of their effectiveness down the stretch. Something has to give somewhere.
Atlanta has remained around five games in back of the New York Mets and within a game of the Wild-card leading Padres. That is cause for hope. But the club is going to have to string the wins together soon if they hope to stay in the race in September.
Till next time,