There will certainly be a playoff like atmosphere at Turner Field over the course of the next 4 days. The Braves will host the Giants in what will be a very important series for both teams. As we all remember there’s a bit of history between these two teams as the last time the Giants left Turner Field they were celebrating a series win and moving onto the National League Championship Series. The stakes are not quite as high this time around but clearly this is a big series. I’d like to preview the series a little bit and give you an idea of what it could mean for both teams.
The first thing we need to examine is that the playoffs could be greatly affected by this series. Both teams have exactly 41 games remaining on their schedule and a major swing in one direction or another could play a huge role in who makes the playoffs and who goes home. Head to head games are the quickest and most efficient way to make up ground in the standings or to expand your lead if your the front runner in either a Wild Card or Divisional race. These series matter.
Where do these 2 teams stand within their own division? Well the Braves currently sit 9.0 behind the front running Phillies. With 41 games left and a near double digit deficit in the standings the Braves will certainly be counting on the Wild Card as their best to shot to make the playoffs. The Giants have a little bit more traction in their quest to climb the playoff mountain. They trail the Diamond Backs by only 2.0 games in the National League West. So I suppose you could look at this as the Giants having 2 outs to make the post season and the Braves looking as if they only have one.
Now what does this series mean to these teams in a head to head aspect? Well the Braves currently hold a 4.0 game lead over the Giants in the National League Wild Card standings. The Braves have seen their lead dip from 6.0 to 4.0 games in just a matter of 2 days as they were not able to finish off the Cub’s series on a positive note. So a 4.0 game lead is not safe by any means. However it does give the Braves the firm upper hand in this match up. The pressure is always on the team that’s trailing in the standings. If the Giants were to sweep this series the worse possible scenario would be that the two teams would be tied for the Wild Card lead. Now if the Braves were to sweep the Giants they would then be 8.0 games out and on the verge of elimination as there only be 37 games left in the season.
I would like to put a slightly different spin on the perspective above. Yes the Braves are the home team in this series. Yes they have a 4 game lead in the Wild Card standings. It appears that the Braves have all the outside aspects in their favor. However we must dig a little deeper to realize the true importance of this series.
The Brave have a 4.0 game lead over the Giants. What about the Cardinals? They are currently sitting just 5.0 games behind the Braves and 1.0 game behind the Giants. A disastrous series for the Braves would not only mean the Giants would be back in this race but it would also mean that the Cardinals would have an opportunity to creep back into it as well. The last thing the Braves want is for this Wild Card race to involve 3 teams. That just makes everything more complicated. Your not just score board watching 1 team, your now keeping track of 2 teams. This would be a great series to make a statement and win 3 of 4 and expand this lead by 2 games. I’d like to see the Braves exit this series with a 6.0 Wild Card lead. That’s what I think needs to happen. At worst they need to split and keep the lead where it is.
Other notes. The Giants play 31 of their remaining 41 games against below .500 teams. The Braves and Diamond Backs are the only exceptions. They have 4 games remaining with Atlanta and 3 with Arizona. The schedule down the stretch will favor the Giants. That’s certainly something that needs to be remembered.
Other notes. The Braves will be throwing rookie pitcher Randall Delgado in game 2. Hanson is back on the disabled list for 15 days. First we saw Mike Minor make a return to the major leagues and now were going to get another look at Randall Delgado. Are the Braves having open auditions for the Lowe’s spot in the rotation? Hudson, Delgado and Jurrjens are the scheduled starters for the first 3 games of this series. Game 4 has a TBD next to it for the Braves. What does this mean exactly? Will Lowe get the start or will they go with Mike Minor?
It will be interesting to see how this series plays out for the Braves. I think we have a few question marks that need to be answered. How will Randall Delgado perform under the pressure of a big series? Who will pitch game 4 in this series for the Braves? Whoever they do call upon should take it as a sign of trust. If they do take Mike Minor over Derek Lowe then I say Lowe’s days could be numbered.
By: Bob McVinua