Despite their best efforts, the starting pitching has yet to cost the Braves. They remain three games up in the NL East and sit in second place in the entire National League. Sure, the bullpen has been unbelievable, but the only way the Braves stand a chance at winning a World Series is if their offense continues the tear that they are on.
Thursday night was another example of the Braves finding a way to win no matter who starts the game on the mound. Almost laughably, Alex Anthopoulos and company continue to send out Robbie Erlin as a starter, and he was tattooed by the Nationals lineup. Erlin was unable to make it out of the second inning, allowing five earned runs before Brian Snitker turned to Huascar Ynoa.
Just as unsurprising as Erlin struggling to make it more than an inning, was the Braves’ offense managing to put the team on their backs (I can’t totally forget about the bullpen either, who only allowed one earned run in 7 1/3 innings of work). Freddie Freeman started the scoring with a two-run blast in the fourth to cut the lead to three. The Braves’ first baseman then delivered the game-tying shot in the seventh that traveled 443 feet from home plate — his tenth homer of the season. Dansby Swanson capped off the comeback in the eighth with another home run, helping the Braves to a Game 1 win over the Nationals.
As things stand, the Braves have one starting pitcher from their projected Opening Day roster in their rotation. That is Kyle Wright, and who knows how much longer he will be apart of the team. Atlanta’s rotation is worth the price of admission at a Los Angeles comedy club without Max Fried, and even with him, they are only a notch above the Bad News Bears. There’s hope that Cole Hamels and Mike Foltynewicz can offer something before the postseason, but the odds of them both helping the club achieve October glory are slim. If Atlanta is going to make noise in the playoffs, this offense will have to look like it has over the past two weeks.
Since August 30th (12 games), the Braves have managed to score 105 runs. That’s nearly nine runs a game over a half-month stretch. Sure, that number is inflated after Atlanta managed to put up 29 runs in one game on Wednesday. But take that game out of the equation, and the Braves have still scored 76 runs in 11 games — nearly 7 runs per contest. That’s enough to carry the worst starting rotation, and it’s why Atlanta has managed to stay at arm’s length of the Phillies in the NL East.
But are the Braves’ bats enough to carry them through the postseason?
I’m not sure about that. The deeper you go into October, the better the pitching, and teams also have strong lineups to go along with their stellar arms. There’s a reason why organizations are willing to pull out 200+ million for players that only take the field once every five days. Pitching dominates come the postseason, especially starting pitching, and the Braves have one of the worst rotations in the game right now.
With that being said, this lineup is as good as I’ve ever seen in my 25 years as a Braves fan. From top to bottom, there isn’t a single easy out, with power throughout as well. Atlanta currently has the second-most runs scored in the entire MLB, and for the most part, they’ve been missing critical pieces to their lineup nightly.
Over the last week, the Braves have finally started to get healthy, with Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies returning to the field, and the results are obvious. Nobody can stop Atlanta’s bats. They may run into a buzzsaw come October, but there’s also enough talent in the Braves’ lineup for them to be the buzzsaw. As long as Alex Anthopoulos and Brian Snitker can put together some semblance of a respectable three-man rotation for the postseason, the Braves have a fantastic chance of being the last ones standing. They just have to get hot at the right time.
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