Who will the Braves play?

Four teams still alive for two spots, and the Braves could play any of them — or the Cardinals — in the first round.

With a 2 1/2 game lead on the Dodgers, who lost last night, the Cardinal eventuality is remote. One Braves win, or one Dodgers loss, and the Braves will clinch the second seed in the playoffs. Whew.

If the season ended today, several teams would lose a lot of money because the last three or four games of the season would be cancelled. Anyway, the Astros, suprisingly, have rallied to take the NL Wildcard lead. They’re a half game up on the Giants and Cubs, even in the loss column. If the Astros or Cubs win the wildcard, the Braves would play them. If the Giants did, the Braves would play the Dodgers. If the Giants caught the Dodgers but the latter hung on for the wildcard — it’s very unlikely now — the Braves would play the Giants.

Let’s forget about the Giants and Cards and concentrate on the three likely opponents.

The Astros are the hottest of the three teams right now, and feature the best starting pitcher in the league who isn’t on a pathetic Diamondbacks team, Roger Clemens, who if the Astros win the WC outright would pitch twice in a five-game series. On the other hand, they’re the Astros, and the Braves have owned the Astros over the years, especially in postseason. And I have to point out that Biggio’s career postseason line is .130/.242/.148 and Bagwell’s .174/.367/.174.

The Cubs, of course, play the Braves for three games starting tomorrow. You probably don’t want to play the same team 6-8 times in a row, especially when they must have won at least two of the first three. The Braves definitely owe the Cubs for last year. Interestingly, as Joe Sheehan writes today, the Braves are a bad matchup for the Cubs because Braves pitchers allow few homers, and the Cubs’ offense is heavily homer-oriented. Last year, as I’ve written before, the Cubs were a bad matchup for the Braves because the Braves were a heavily righthanded-hitting team, reliant especially on three righthanded power hitters, and the Cubs’ righthanded power pitching took those guys out of the series.

The Dodgers feature a rather shoddy starting rotation right now — one good starter, Odalis Perez, one average one, Jeff Weaver, and a gang of nothings. They do have a good, broad-based, offense and a good bullpen, and the second-best hitter in baseball in Adrian Beltre. The Braves hit Eric Gagne as well as anyone does, and in addition Gagne has some shoulder problems. Something to keep in mind.

10 thoughts on “Who will the Braves play?”

  1. Even if the Astros have been embarassed by the Braves in playoffs past, I think they are the scariest team out of that batch. Clemens and Oswalt are a powerful 1-2, and the lineup has been somewhat revamped with the addition of Beltran. Garner has to be willing to do anything to smell that ring after so many lean years with the Brewers and Tigers. Give me the Dodgers or even the Cubs this year, and let the Astros go home and wonder why they didn’t bust tail for Jimy Williams.

  2. If the Astros make the playoffs, it will probably happen as a result of Clemens pitching on Sunday on 3 days’ rest. That would mean we would face him only once during the series. If there are any ties, resulting in a playoff game before the real playoffs, it favors the Bravos even more if they face the Astros or Cubs.

    The Braves also have 2 things they did not have last year; left-hitting JD Drew and Switch hitting Estrada. I feel the Braves offense lines up better against the Cubs this year than it did last year. LaRoche is hitting the ball well versus having Fick at 1st, Chipper is more comfortable at the plate right now, and even Furcal is hitting the ball better these days.

    I said it in a post back near the end of August that the schedule favored the Astros being the wildcard, and it’s on the verge of happening. They have been on a run because of who they have played, not to mention the Cardinals are giving a lot of guys some rest. I think the Cards may have blown their wad. Edmonds is ailing, Rolen is ailing, and several of the pitchers have not had good outings recently.

    All that to say I am encouraged about the Braves’ chances in the postseason. If they can make it through the NL, they won’t be beat by the no-pitching AL teams (that is, unless the Red Sox get in).

  3. I don’t think that the Astros would use Clemens on Sunday unless it’s an elimination game for them. And they are playing the Rockies, after all, so that’s not that likely. It is likely, however, that there will be at least one playoff game, and Clemens would probably pitch that.

    Here’s a weird fantasy situation for you: The Astros make the World Series, and Game One, Roger Clemens on the mound, in Fenway Park, facing Curt Schilling. It’s not even that unlikely.

  4. Dodgers easy. Their offense is in full retreat, rotation is thin, bullpen is overworked, Gagne has a bad arm etc.

    Seeing what Prior is doing today, I have no desire to mess with them again. We should all be huge Giants and Rockies fans right now.

  5. In reference to a previous thread, do y’all see what’s happening with our starting rotation?

    Jaret Wright being injured is probably going to push him out of the game 1 starter job, just to give him extra rest. And the three scheduled starters in Chicago are Thomson, Hampton and Byrd.

    Guess who that leaves as the “logical” No. 1 playoff starter? And with Bobby’s announced ‘four-man rotation’, guess who that means would end up getting the call for game five too? Argh! We better hope Ortiz is just “due”.

  6. I would love playing the Dodgers. As long as we can avoid pitching to Beltre and Green, there is nothing to be scared about.

    On our pitching rotation and knowing Cox, John Thomson will pitch for game 1, Ortiz for game 2, Wright for game 3 with Hampton pitching Game 4. What do you guys think?

  7. Wright vs. Schilling would be the matchup I would hope for. The Astros’ luck is about to run out, starting in the divisional playoffs.

  8. Just as an aside, I hope Cox finds an opportunity to get Capellan into a game this weekend. It’s obvious (to some, even before his last start) that he needed some rest, but I’d hate for him to go into the offseason with the memory that his last appearance was a horrible one. If we can spot him for an inning versus the lower part of the Cubs lineup one time, it would be a good thing.

  9. On our pitching rotation and knowing Cox, John Thomson will pitch for game 1, Ortiz for game 2, Wright for game 3 with Hampton pitching Game 4. What do you guys think?

    I don’t think that’s quite right. I think we are officially “trying” in this Cubs series and the starters are Hampton, Thomson, and probably Byrd. That means only Wright and Ortiz would be on their normal rest to start Game 1 on Tuesday (assuming a Tuesday start, you never know with MLB). That would be fine if Wright could pitch game one, but that’s far from a sure thing. At this point, the ideal situation looks like this:

    Game 1,5: Wright
    Game 2: Ortiz
    Game 3: Hampton
    Game 4: Thomson

    That looks great. However if Wright can’t go right away, you’ve got this:

    Game 1,5: Ortiz
    Game 2: Hampton
    Game 3: Wright
    Game 4: Thomson

    That doesn’t look so good unless the old Russ resurfaces (which is certainly possible I guess). Thomson has be great lately, but if he’s really going to pitch Saturday, he’s not going to be available until later in the division series.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *