After Atlanta's game against Washington on July 22, they started a 23-game stretch against teams with a losing record. That comes to an end Thursday night when Atlanta closes out its four-game series with the Padres.
So far, the Braves have gone 16-6 in that stretch. They've won every series, which makes the final game against San Diego important to keep that streak going. But it hasn't really helped them in the NL East standings.
When that series ended with the Nationals, Atlanta was 3.5 games back of Washington. But the Nationals have gone 18-6 since then, getting an extra game against the Braves. Five of the seven opponents for Washington have had losing records in the last three weeks. The Diamondbacks and Giants were the two teams with winning records that played the Nats, and Washington won two of three in both series.
So Atlanta begins Thursday's play 4.5 games out of first place. It's hard to believe that through this solid work they've actually lost a game in the standings.
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Of course, the Braves have created some separation between themselves and the other teams in the wildcard hunt. Atlanta is now four games up on Pirates and Cardinals, who are now tied for the second spot in the wildcard. If the season ended Thursday, the Braves would host the wildcard play-in game in Atlanta.
Once the Padres leave after Thursday’s game, the Braves will start a challenging stretch for the next 10 games, as they host the first place Dodgers, then go to Washington for three games, before heading out west to play the Giants.
The Nationals, who are off Thursday, will host the Mets this weekend before the Braves come to town. Then they go to Philadelphia and Miami. So Washington will have an easier immediate schedule than Atlanta.
The Braves are also in a three-week stretch where they do not have a day off. Atlanta’s next break will be two weeks from Thursday, on August 30 – after its 10-game road trip to Washington, San Francisco and San Diego.
That is why the Braves have decided to go with a six-man rotation, with Tommy Hanson coming back off the disabled list to start Friday.
Atlanta will continue to try and push for the NL East title, which will make next weekend’s series in Washington very important. But they will also keep a close eye on the teams behind them in the wildcard race. St. Louis has now caught the Pirates, who have struggled recently. The Giants are only a half-game behind those two teams, so it’s a three-team race right now behind Atlanta.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com . Follow Bill on twitter @BillShanks and email him at email@example.com .