I wouldn’t be much of a Braves fan if I didn’t provide a first-half status report. In general, the Braves have been underperforming and injured. The resuming of play tonight will see them 6.5 games out of first place, and trailing three of the rival teams in the East.
I’ll begin with the injuries. Smoltz did his job while he could, and is now out until at least next season, at most forever. Escobar has battled injuries, and Kotsay was out for a long while (which should have been expected before the season started). Strangely, Mike Hampton is still with the Braves and suffering “setback” after “setback;” I’d be impressed to see him ever make another start, and even more impressed if that start is even somewhat effective. Soriano has been gone, and for most of the season Mike Gonzalez has as well. Moylan is also injured, and probably some other pitchers that would have sucked even if they were healthy.
But even larger than the injuries has been the disappointing performance of the Braves. Their clutch hitting has seemingly vanished, and they’ve lost a Major League record 23 1-run road games (last time I checked). They’ve managed to keep most games close and always come out on the bottom. More impressive is their inability to beat teams with far less talent than themselves, and their baffling two sweeps at home at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies.
So what’s been going well for the Braves? Chipper leads the league in average at .376, and was over .400 for a long while. His prospects of hitting .400 have taken a dive but the possibility, however unlikely, is still there. The starting pitching has had some great outtings, even in defeat, and Jair Jurrjens and Jorge Campillo have done all they could to keep Atlanta in the race.
So what it boils down to is the necessity of a losing streak for the Phillies and Mets, and with New York currently on a 10-game win streak it doesn’t look good. The Marlins are also surprisingly good, continuing to hang around at just 1.5 games out of first. It’s difficult for me to admit, but the Braves don’t appear to have a chance this season. They simply cannot win more than two games without turning around and handing them back to lesser teams. But hey, I love to be proved wrong.