As bad as things seem for the Braves, they sit just 4.5 games back with a golden opportunity to close some ground before the All-Star break. That begins tonight with the New York Mets — the team they’re chasing for first place in the NL East.
Unfortunately, the Braves have to face DeGrom on Thursday, who is currently putting together one of the best seasons for a starting pitcher of all time. Atlanta will also have to figure out Taijuan Walker, who has tossed eight scoreless innings in two starts against the Braves, allowing just three hits while striking out ten. However, you can never complain when you have the opportunity to go head-to-head with a team ahead in the division. The Mets also remain exceptionally banged up and are losers of nine of their last 14 games. Even if the Braves can take two out of three, it will go a long way in ensuring they are in the playoff race come the trade deadline.
However, Atlanta’s best chance to make up ground on the Mets will come in the final three series before the All-Star break. They have two series with the Marlins and one with the lowly Pirates. Miami is undoubtedly an improved club over the last couple of seasons, but this is a team the Braves have dominated on the way to three straight division titles. They have to continue that trend for the remainder of the season if they want to catch the Mets. The Pirates are still one of the worst teams in the MLB, winning just 29 games so far this season. There’s no reason the Braves shouldn’t take at least two out of three against them.
If Atlanta doesn’t make up ground over the next couple of weeks, they might be in major trouble because the beginning of the second half of the season is brutal. It starts with two home series versus the Rays and Padres before the Braves hit the road for seven games against the Phillies and Mets. Then the Braves play the division-leading Brewers, followed by the Cardinals and Nationals. It is the kind of stretch that you hope to manage .500 against. That won’t be good enough to make up much ground against the Mets, which is why these upcoming series before the All-Star break are critical to the Braves being legit contenders before the trade deadline.