As you know, this year’s Braves team has been an offensive juggernaut, setting all kinds of hitting records. Friday night in Tampa, our guys only had two hits. But no problem; they won anyway. In an old fashioned pitchers’ duel, the Hammers topped the Rays 2-1, Charlie Morton over Tyler Glasnow. One of the Braves’ two hits was a two run shot by Sean Murphy. Morton surrendered one home run himself, a solo blast by Wander Franco in the first. But Charlie did not yield another run in his six and a third, and Minter, Anderson, and Yglesias blanked them the rest of the way.
A lot of folks have called this weekend series with the Rays a preview of the World Series; they have indeed been the best teams in their respective leagues so far. But actually, as JonathanF reminds us, the playoffs are a crapshoot. The odds of both teams making the World Series are pretty low. Even if they finish with the best records in the league, each team has no better than a fifty percent chance of advancing to the Fall Classic.
But that doesn’t make this series any less exciting. Although the Rays have fallen on hard times lately, having lost six in a row, they are still a very deep and talented team.
Our Braves had pretty much their best month ever in June, going 21-4 for a winning percentage of .840. So far in July they haven’t been able to maintain that lofty pace, having gone 5-1, for a winning percentage of just .833. Maybe it’s time for a clubhouse meeting. But don’t worry—we are not yet DOOMED! Winning Saturday would put the winning percentage for the month more where it belongs, at .857. A win either Saturday or Sunday (or why not both!) would also make this the eleventh consecutive series win.
I’m making fun of the DOOMED! attitude, of course. I do get a little frustrated when folks don’t appreciate how historically great this team has been. But, truth is, as great as they’ve been so far, there is a long way to go. Here is a little perspective. The Braves’ division lead is currently 9.5 games. On July 7, 1991, the Braves were 9.5 games out of first. As you know, they finished the season in first. On this date in 1993, our guys were 8 games behind—and two weeks after that the deficit had reached 10 games. In one of the great all time closing stretches, the Braves overtook the Giants and finished first.
Don’t hear me to say that the Braves are likely to squander this lead. Those pennant races of 91 and 93 were so memorable in part because they were so unlikely. The current odds of winning the division are about 99%, and rightly so. In fact, it’s almost inconceivable to me that they won’t take the flag, both because this team really is historically good, and the teams trailing them, the Marlins at 9.5 back and the Phils 11 back, are pretty flawed.
Spencer Strider takes the mound Saturday, against Redan High School’s Taj Bradley. I usually pull for local kids on other teams, but I’ll be happy to see the Braves get back to scoring at their customary pace of about seven runs.