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,


1 Comment

The only issue for the Braves is the starting pitching rotation. What has been witnessed out of the Braves starting rotation in 2007, is a good reason why they need to go back to a 4-man rotation. The 5th starter is worthless, plain and simple. The fifth starter is not good enough to break into the top 4, be a closer, or even a good setup man, so someone is designated 5th starter. There is no way that Atlanta will make the 2007 Post Season unless they win the NL East. That means sweeping the upcoming series with both the Mets and the Phillies, and then taking at least 4 of the 6 games remaining after the upcoming series games with both Mets/Phill’s, that will be left after the Sep 5 game with Philly.

Also, Smoltz and Hudson have twelve starts left between them and here is what must happen for the Braves to succedd this season. One, of those final combined 12 starts, no less than 10 wins are needed. The bottom three starters have shown that with only 32 games remaining in this season that they are worthless and cannot be counted for consistent wins. Smoltz and Hudson need to turn in a tag-team-duo show their last twelve starts of epic proportions for the Braves to make the playoffs.

Two, both the Mets and Phillies have 34, NOT 32 games left in 2007. This is basically an extra two-game lead for both of them over the Braves. Thus, Atlanta must make every game count and run off a record of like 25-7 or better to win the NL East crown.

Three, in late September, the Braves host the Brewers for a four-game series at Turner Field. Sweeping that series will be paramount as the Brewers may come to town having to do just that to Atlanta to win the NL Central, so the Braves need to get it in their head NOW, that every, single game left is mission critical.

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