It was a wild week for the Atlanta Braves.
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One day, they’re trying to figure out how to fill a few weak spots and get their offense together. The next day, their veteran hurler goes down for the season with a gruesome injury in a bang-bang play at first base. The day after that, the experts are questioning their future in the postseason. And three days later, they are completing a sweep of the NL-best St. Louis Cardinals.
If that doesn’t qualify as wild, I don’t know what does.
If you watched Sunday night’s game on ESPN, throw away everything Orel Hershiser and Company said about the Braves. It’s all garbage. Forget that on Saturday, FOX Sports led their coverage of the game by replaying the infamous infield fly play that’s absolutely scarred Braves fans for life — four times! What you should be paying attention to is the fact this series could very well be a preview of the playoffs come October. What you also should be paying attention to is the fact most analysts were ready to throw the Braves’ chances at a shot at the World Series in the toilet after Tim Hudson‘s season went into the toilet on that fateful Wednesday night in New York.
You, like me, may have been eying Thursday’s finale with no small amount of scrutiny to see if they could bounce back from the horror of the night before. And you, like me, may have been slightly disappointed and ready to write the Braves off after a fairly lackluster performance. Let’s be honest here: If you like the Braves, you wanted to see them come out against the Mets and take their revenge on Zack Wheeler in the name of Tim Hudson. But it wasn’t to be.
Then the big question was how Atlanta was going to stack up against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Midwest team that can and seemingly always does lead the National League in wins, batting average with RISP and ERA. But the question was not how the Cards would handle the Braves, but if the Braves could handle the Cards and how ugly it would be by the end.
Cut to Sunday night. The game ends and the Braves complete the sweep, outscoring the Cards 11-3 over three games. The Redbirds, who also have the highest fielding percentage, have committed three errors and made some bad plays that weren’t called against them. The Braves have hit a couple homers, but they’ve scored the majority of their runs playing small ball, which is something many thought the Braves couldn’t do.
Literally days after articles were being written about how the Braves couldn’t seem to widen the gap between themselves and the Nationals and Phillies, they finish the weekend 8.5 games over the Nats and a whopping 11 over the Phils.
I’m hesitant to pump this up too much, as my track record seems to damn the Braves when I’m overly excited.
It’s just that this was an excellent example of why the Braves belong in the postseason buzz as it stands currently. Not only that, but they did what they do best, starting with pitching. Mike Minor and Julio Teheran were dealing during both of their games, giving up one whole run over a combined 14 innings. Kris Medlen had a better outing than he’s seen in a while, and the bullpen combined for seven scoreless innings over three games. Bear in mind, this was against the team that has scored the most runs in the NL with 498, leading the second place Rockies by 31. They’ve also had the second fewest runs scored against them at 364.
I’d single out more moments, but the truth is the whole team came out to play. They were definitely the underdog for this series, and they pulled off the sweep.
The naysayers will say this is a fluke. ESPN will maintain that the Braves’ strikeout numbers will sink them. FOX Sports thinks the infield fly call was the right one. Personally, I think this is a sign of things to come. Brandon Beachy makes his 2013 debut Monday night against the Rockies, and GM Frank Wren is shopping for another starter to round out the rotation, or perhaps a solid bullpen option to shore that up.
As brutal as it was, Hudson’s injury may have triggered something in the Braves, or at least solidified their resolve to prove to the naysayers that they’re serious about a postseason run.