• Exclusives

    Are the Braves still in the NL East hunt?

    by Kent Covington

    After another frustrating loss to the Nationals, coupled with an extra-innings win by the NL East-leading Phillies in Colorado, the Braves now find themselves 7 games out of first place. Eight games in the loss column.  This begs the question…

    Are the Braves still in the hunt for the NL East pennant?

    With 1/3 of the season still remaining, the answer is yes, they are still in the race in the East. Needless to say, however, it’s going to be tougher than a frozen bag of Jack Links.

    Here are a couple of scenarios that would force a 1-game playoff to determine the division champ:

    1)  The Braves play white hot .750 baseball the rest of the way (39-13), and the Phillies play out the season at a .611 clip (33-21).

    2)  The Braves play .692 ball from here out (36-16). Meanwhile, the Phillies scuffle just a bit and play .555 baseball (30-24).

    These scenarios are obviously unlikely. Then again, standings can shift in the blink of an eye in baseball.  If Atlanta could reel off an 8 or 9 game winning streak in the very near future, they might just trim a few games off Philly’s lead and turn that 7-game deficit into something much more manageable.  Overtaking the Phillies at this point will be very difficult, but not impossible.

    The good news, of course, is that Braves currently rest atop the Wild Card standings, 2.5 games in front of the surprising Arizona Diamondbacks. While the odds of knocking the Phillies off their NL East perch are increasingly slim, they have an excellent opportunity to repeat as the NL Wild Card winners.

    But winning the NL East pennant is worth more than just bragging rights. If the Braves hold on to win a Wild Card postseason berth, their road to the World Series would most likely wind through BOTH San Francisco and Philadelphia, without home field advantage for either series. Meanwhile, the Phillies would open against the NL Central champs, who will likely be a weaker opponent than the defending World Series Champion Giants. And the Phillies would have home field throughout the postseason.

    Nevertheless, 3 of the last 10 World Series Champions earned their postseason berth via the Wild Card. So while that “2011 NL East Champions” banner would look pretty alongside the other 14 currently hanging at “The Ted”, and the division pennant is the preferable path to the postseason, the important thing is to get there. One way or the other.

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