• Exclusives

    Game on! And… game over

    By Kent Covington

    Jair Jurrjens will take the ball for game-1 of the series Tuesday night

    After an unexpected 3-day vacation, courtesy of Hurricane Irene, the Braves return to action tonight to take on the perennially losing—yet somehow fearsome—Washington Nationals at Turner Field.

    The bad news: The Nationals have been a thorn in the Braves’ side. To Atlanta, the Nats are more irritating than a screaming kid in a restaurant; the guy in front of you on the freeway whose phone call is apparently much more interesting than driving; giggling teens in a movie theater; text spam; a shopping cart left in the middle of the only vacant parking space, and… well, you get the point. They’re annoying. In recent years, it seems the Nats have saved their best baseball for Atlanta, making nearly every contest anything but an easy win—if a win at all.

    The good news: It doesn’t matter.

    The Braves currently hold a 9-game lead in the NL Wild Card race (10 games in the loss column) over the second place San Francisco Giants.

    If the Braves were to go just 15-14 in their remaining 29 games, they would finish the season with a 94-68 record.  The Giants would have to play .852 baseball (23-4) from here out just to force a 1-game playoff for the Wild Card berth.  That assumes the NL West leading Arizona Diamondbacks would be able stave off the Gaints in the division race, which in this hypothetical scenario, would force them to play .704 ball (19-8) the rest of the way.

    Baseball Prospectus currently places the Braves’ likelihood of winning the NL Wild Card at 95%. I gotta tell ya… from where I’m sitting, that seems low.

    On the other hand, Atlanta’s odds of overtaking the first place Philadelphia Phillies for the NL East pennant are, unfortunately, almost as anorexic.

    Bottom line: It’s over. The Braves will repeat as NL Wild Card winners. The Phillies will win the East. And it appears the sizzling hot Milwaukee Brewers can now coast into the winner’s circle with the NL Central pennant. The only remaining question in the National League is who will come out of the West.  However, that race could also be decided with nearly a month left in the season if the Giants don’t find their groove quickly (they currently trail the D-Backs by 5 games).

    So boys and girls, while the Nationals seem to relish their role as tomahawk tormentors, they won’t have the pleasure now. Even if they win this midweek series, they can’t play spoiler. This time, the Nationals—and every other opponent from now until game-1 of the NLDS in Milwaukee—will be seen as only one thing to the Braves… practice squad.

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