For Braves fans still expecting a comeback, two out of three against the Marlins is a start. A sweep would have been nice, but two out of three will work for now. The Braves now sit five games back in both the NL East and Wild Card races:
There are several teams to jump in each race, but for the optimists (I guess I’m not sure if I am one), let me quickly break down how it might work.
The Braves play six games each against the Mets and Phillies over the last month (plus one day) of the season, so they’re in control of their own destiny. Win all six against the Mets and 5-of-6 vs. Philly, and (all else equal) that’s the division. So, that’s one way it could work.
If you don’t think they can do that (I certainly don’t), here’s the schedule breakdown for each team:
Braves: 6 vs. NYM, 6 vs. PHI, 6 vs. WAS, 3 vs. FLA, 4 vs. MIL, 3 vs. HOU (28 total)
Mets: 6 vs. ATL, 7 vs. FLA, 6 vs. WAS, 4 vs. PHI, 3 vs. CIN, 3 vs. HOU, 1 vs. STL (30 total)
Phillies: 6 vs. ATL, 6 vs. FLA, 7 vs. WAS, 4 vs. NYM, 4 vs. COL, 3 vs. STL (30 total)
The Mets and Phillies are somewhat better than .500, while the Braves, Rockies, Brewers, and Cardinals are all close enough to .500 that it probably doesn’t matter in terms of opponent strength. The Reds are a bit below .500, and the Astros, Marlins, and Nationals are below them. That leaves the teams with the following breakdown based on those groupings, if you exclude games against one another:
Braves: 4 vs. .500, 12 vs. significantly below .500
Mets: 1 vs. .500, 3 vs. below .500, 16 vs. significantly below .500
Phillies: 7 vs. .500, 13 vs. significantly below .500
Aggregate winning percentage for remaining teams (games against each other excluded in parentheses):
Braves: .490 (.452)
Mets: .468 (.442)
Phillies: .482 (.458)
One thing to gain from this, other than that the Phillies have it worst (then the Braves, then the Mets), is that all three have a fair number of remaining games against easier opponents. While I still don’t like the Braves’ chances to win the division, unless they go on the kind of run against the Mets and Phillies that I described above, the Wild Card may be a possibility.
It’s basically a seven-team race for the Wild Card, since one team from the Padres, D-Backs, and Dodgers will win the NL West. My bet is on the Padres, who have had the best run differential all along. The D-Backs have still allowed more runs than they’ve scored, and I think they’re likely to keep falling off. It’s entirely possible that the Braves will play five games better than them from here on out, though it’s far from certain.
Next are the pesky Phillies, and we’ve already looked at how the Braves could pass them. Below are the remaining schedules for the other teams (I’ll throw in the Cubs, too, since their lead in the Central is small):
Padres: 6 vs. LAD, 6 vs. COL, 6 vs. SF, 4 vs. ARI, 4 vs. MIL, 4 vs. PIT (30 games, .498 opponent win%)
D-Backs: 6 vs. LAD, 6 vs. COL, 6 vs. SF, 4 vs. SD, 3 vs. STL, 3 vs. PIT (28, .500)
Dodgers: 6 vs. SD, 6 vs. SF, 6 vs. ARI, 7 vs. COL, 4 vs. CHC (29, .517)
Rockies: 7 vs. LAD, 6 vs. ARI, 6 vs. SD, 3 vs. SF, 4 vs. PHI, 3 vs. FLA (29, .521)
Cubs: 6 vs. HOU, 6 vs. PIT, 6 vs. CIN, 5 vs. STL, 4 vs. LAD, 3 vs. FLA, 1 vs. MIL (31, .467)
Brewers: 6 vs. HOU, 6 vs. PIT, 6 vs. CIN, 4 vs. SD, 4 vs. ATL, 3 vs. STL, 1 vs. CHC (30, .479)
Cardinals: 7 vs. PIT, 6 vs. CIN, 5 vs. HOU, 4 vs. CHI, 4 vs. PHI, 3 vs. ARI, 3 vs. MIL, 1 vs. NYM (33, .484)
The NL West teams have the hardest road, since only the Giants have been a bad team in that division, so that’s a bright spot for other WC contenders. The Brewers and Cardinals, despite playing in an easy division, have moderately difficult schedules because they play tough opponents from the other divisions. The Cubs have a somewhat easier road.
The teams for the Braves to watch are the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, since the NL Central teams are behind them in the Wild Card race anyway. A good month from the Giants and Rockies (if the Braves can hold them off) would go a long way toward improving the outlook in that race.
For the rest of the season, every series is important, so let’s start with at least 2 of 3 from the Mets, and preferably a sweep.