Going into Friday’s game our Braves found themselves once again on the Streets of Philadelphia, as the Phils hosted the guys from My Hometown.  The Braves are trying to return to the Glory Days of 2021, returning to The Promised Land of the world championship. But over the past couple of weeks, since briefly taking a half game lead over the Mets, they had taken One Step Up and Two Steps Back, falling a game and a half behind the Mets. 

The bats had trod Thunder Road for much of the season, but in the past week the lumber has been on a Downbound Train—and Going Down, Down, Down. 

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September 23 is Bruce Springsteen’s birthday; he’s still going strong at 73.  Happy Birthday, Boss. 

I’ve done this schtick before on the birthdays of Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and others, but the routine is getting tired—and it’s a bit of a cheap trick in any event (no, that’s not an intentional reference to a band whose career is roughly contemporaneous with that of the Boss).  I’ll try play it straight from here on out.  But once the Boss gets in your head….

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Turns out the train continued its downbound trajectory on Friday.  The Braves’ 9-1 loss was the Braves’ most lopsided in nearly three months.  And with the Mets victory over the hapless A’s, the deficit is now two and a half.

The odds weren’t good with the Braves worst pitcher, Jake Odorizzi, facing the Phillies’ best, Aaron Nola.  But you never know—I was there last Saturday at Truist when the Hammers won this very same matchup.  One huge difference was that last Saturday was the Ronald Acuña show.  In that one, RAJ drove in all four runs and saved the game on a phenomenal diving catch. Ronald was a Cautious Man in Friday’s game, sitting out for the second game in a row with back soreness.

But even Ronald at the top of his powers wouldn’t have changed the outcome of this game.  It was over soon after it began.  Odorizzi gave up four in the second and four more in the 4th to give the Phils an 8-0 lead.  At that point my wife and I decided to Netflix and chill (or, more accurately, Britbox and wine).

The Braves finally scored one run in the 7th on a sac fly by Grossman, but that was it.  That’s three runs in the last three games. 

Matzek pitched two innings and gave up the 9th run.  Tyler walked four and showed that he’s still not the Nutsack of last October. 

At least Orlando Arcia got into a game for the first time in weeks.  He pitched a scoreless and hitless 8th.  As a pitcher, Orlando, you ain’t a beauty but hey you’re alright.

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So where does this leave the Braves?  It’s looking more likely that they will finish second to the Mets.  Anything short of sweeping the Mets at Truist next weekend leaves the Mets the clear favorite to win the division, especially since they would hold the tiebreaker. 

If the Braves do finish second, they would begin the playoffs, not with a bye, but against a team from a pretty little place in Southern California, down San Diego way.  The reward for winning that series would be to face the Dodgers, who just happen to have the best winning percentage over a four season stretch of any team since the 1936-39 Yankees. 

Still, as you know, I tend to be optimistic about our team.  Where are the signs of hope?  First and foremost, they will be in the playoffs, no matter what happens the rest of the way.  And once you’re in, anything can happen.  Despite the current three game skid, this is an excellent team—they have played at a nearly .700 clip over the past 100 games.  The pitching, starting and relief, matches up well with anyone they might face in October.  Don’t worry about Odorizzi; there was never a chance he was going to make a playoff start.  The other four are outstanding.

But what about the offense, you ask?  It sucks right now.  But it’s baseball; all teams go through offensive slumps.  Better to get that out of the way now than in October. Olson is the only one that really concerns me; he’s not just in a slump, his bat is hiding so far in the Backstreets he may not make it out.  But then again, he could turn on a dime, and all of a sudden, Fire!

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I still believe that mentally, thanks largely to Snit, they are Tougher than the Rest.  They are still Working on a Dream of repeating; I’m convinced that Better Days Are Shining Through.  The Braves may trail the Mets, but we’re gonna get to that place where we really wanna go and we’ll walk in the sun.  Like soldiers in the winter’s night with a vow to defend, No Retreat, Baby, No Surrender. 

They will try to get back on track Saturday afternoon behind Kyle Wright, who is going for his 20th win.  When Wright pitches, the team usually scores runs.  I know Pitcher Wins are an overrated stat, but I would love to see Kyle get number 20. And a victory (whoever gets credit) would extend the season long stretch of never losing four in a row.  No reason to change that now.