Unfortunately, the Braves weren’t able to pick up any ground during the first week of the second half. They still sit 4.5 games back of the first-place Mets with just ten days until the trade deadline — a stretch that will ultimately determine whether they are buyers or sellers. The Braves have nine upcoming road games, four with the Phillies and five with the Mets — the two teams in front of them in the division. However, their first week back from the All-Star break should give them some encouragement leading up to this critical stretch.
The Braves may have ultimately lost two out of three games to the Rays, but they more than held their own against the defending AL champions. Their bullpen faltered twice, leading to the two losses, but their starting pitching and offense held up their end of the bargain. Charlie Morton, Max Fried, and Drew Smyly combined to allow just six earned runs, while the Braves scored 20 runs as a team. Typically, you win at least two out of three when that happens.
In their next series, the Braves were able to bounce back in their opening game against the Padres, thanks to brilliant pitching performances from Touki Toussaint and the bullpen. However, they couldn’t muster enough offense to come back in the first game of their doubleheader on Wednesday, and their third game was suspended in the fifth inning. Still, this group once again proved they can hang with one of the best teams in baseball. Keep in mind; the Braves are doing this without half of their starting lineup and several other pitchers on the IL.
Typically, I would never look fondly at a 2-3 stretch, especially when the Braves are trailing by 4.5 games in the division. However, with all of the injuries and misfortune, the first couple of weeks of the second half of the season were always going to be about staying afloat, and so far, they haven’t sunk. The schedule will ease up, and reinforcements are on the way. Huascar Ynoa and Travis d’Arnaud continue to progress in their rehab and are nearing their respective returns. The trade deadline is also just around the corner. However, none of that will matter if the Braves can’t hold their own over the next week against the Phillies and Mets.