Man in the Stands

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Braves: The Final 53

With the calendar flipping to August and the Colorado series coming to an end with an awesome offensive showing, the Braves are just 10 games away from being in the final quarter of the regular season.

We’ve seen first year Braves kill it, old Braves come back, a nickname become a legend, brothers collide, brothers tie and walk-off, fans unite to #VoteFreddie, a veteran pitcher go down for the count, and a part-time player become an everyday player and take aim at a batting title.

The first 109 games have been, believe it or not, fun. The final 53 games are looking to be just as good.

Now with the last two months coming to a head, fans wonder: “What team will we see down the stretch?”

That is a legitimate question to ask as a Braves fan. Myself, I grew up with the Braves being champions. I was born in ‘91 and so was the 14 consecutive division champion streak. When I was old enough to actually follow the team, the players, their stats, like, say, at the age 15 in 2006, it was the start of something almost upsetting.

It wasn’t until 2010 that Atlanta reached the postseason again, only to get beat by San Francisco in four games.

In the final 53 games of the 2010 season, Atlanta went 29-24. The team was strong. Offensively, the Braves outscored their opponents 243-214. It wasn’t good enough to take the division, but it was good enough to win the Wild Card by one game over San Diego.

Then 2011 rolls around. The Braves are seven games behind Philadelphia in the NL East but up three games for the Wild Card over Arizona, seven games over St. Louis. Going into the last three games of the season, the WC race is down to Atlanta and the Cardinals.

With a one-game lead, the Braves headed into a three-game home series with the NL East leading Phillies and the Cardinals headed to Houston to face the Astros. Atlanta needed just two home wins to clinch the Wild Card and go to the postseason.

St. Louis took 2-of-3 from the Astros and the Braves were swept by the Phillies to lose the Wild Card spot by one game. The Cardinals went on to beat the Rangers in the World Series.

Last season, seemed like destiny. Chipper Jones’ 19-year career as a Brave was coming to an end and the Braves were making a push for the postseason once again.

With 53 games left, Atlanta was one-game ahead of the 2nd Wild Card team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and three games ahead of the Cardinals.

Down the stretch the Braves went into battle mode and came out with 31 wins and 22 losses. They had a run differential of +33 over their opponents in that time.

The MLB had a newly developed schedule that allowed for a second Wild Card team, which the Cardinals clinched over Pittsburgh. Because Atlanta had the better record, the two teams met at Turner Field.

The game now has been more infamous for a call rather than the result. The infield fly rule was questionably applied in the eighth inning, Braves fans showered the field with trash, and the rest of the game was played under protest by the home team.

The protest was later denied by the MLB front office and the Cardinals won the game 6-3 to advance to the NLDS. St. Louis beat the Nationals before losing to the, would be, World Series Champion Giants in the NLCS.

Here we are again, looking at what is forthcoming in the final 53 games of the 2013 season, and the picture is much different from the previous three years.

Atlanta is 12 games ahead of the Washington Nationals and is the only team above the .500 mark in the National League East.

Here are the final match-ups of the regular season and the results from the previous three seasons when playing the same teams in the last 53 games of the season:

  • Philadelphia (50-58): Braves have 13 games left in 2013 against the Phillies. The Phils have beaten up on Atlanta the last three seasons inside of the 53 game mark, winning 15-of-20 games and outscoring the Braves 105-66. This season the series is split with each team winning three games.
  • Washington (52-56): Nine games are left against the Nationals on the regular season docket. The two have split the 24 games played in the final stretch of the season from 2010-2012. The Braves are 7-3 in 2013 against D.C.’s team.
  • New York (48-58): The Mets and the Braves have played 25 games within the final 53 games in the last three seasons. Atlanta owns that series 18-7 with a +28 run differential. The clubs are even through the 14-game series this year.
  • St. Louis (63-44): Only seven games have been played between these two this late in any season since 2010. The Cardinals have taken five of those games. In 2013, St. Louis is on the schedule twice and the only series played so far belongs to Atlanta in a three-game sweep.
  • Miami (42-65): Atlanta is 6-3 against the Marlins this season and has control of the previous three season’s series’ as well with 17-of-24 wins.
  • Chicago (49-59): Only nine match-ups in the latter part of the season after 2010 have been played between the two. The Braves are one game up in that time and three games to none so far this year.
  • Cleveland (60-48): The last time the Braves played the Indians was in the 2007 season when Atlanta took two games of the three in Cleveland. The two teams have not yet met this season.
  • San Diego (50-59): Last year, the two teams met for seven games in the final 53 games of the Braves regular season. Atlanta won four of the games.
  • Milwaukee (46-62): Last season was also the only season of the past three that Atlanta met Milwaukee in the last stretch of the year. The Brewers outscored the Braves 17-3 and swept the series.

The Braves have an excellent chance of winning 35-to-40 of the last 53 games that they will play in the 2013 regular season.

They have 28 home games left and hold the best home record (38-15) in Major League Baseball. Six of those are against the Miami Marlins, which is 21 games back in the NL East, and seven are against Philadelphia. The Nationals, Indians, Mets, Padres and Brewers each have three games to play at Turner Field.

The shortest home-stand for the Braves will be the three game series with the Padres. No other time at the Ted is shorter than seven games, the length of their longest away trip.

Atlanta has to visit Philly and Washington for six games at each stop. The Braves will be in, both, St. Louis and Miami for four-game series’. Wrigley Field and Citi Field are also stops along the way.

Nothing about the left-over home schedule screams difficulty. The Indians are the only team that is coming into Atlanta with a record of .500 or better at this point. Maybe the hardest thing will be concentrating and staying focused with, what is currently, a double-digit lead in the division.

The toughest away stint will easily be the seven games between the four-game series with the Cardinals and the three-games against the Phillies. The Cardinals are the only team left to play on the road with a .500 or better record right now.

The Phillies match-up, looking at it right now, isn’t a tough one, but after battling with the Cardinals, it will be. Honestly, it might be the most important series to watch. It could tell us what kind of team we’re looking at for the postseason. Is it one who will fight series after series or one wear down after a tough series?

That’s the question that every team is asking, or will be soon, going into the last bit of the schedule. Only time will tell, and it starts with the final 53.

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