Thursday, June 8, 2017

Atlanta Braves enter crucial period with long string of division games

The Atlanta Braves went 3-3 during the past week and wrapped up a long road trip that saw the Braves make stops in San Francisco, Anaheim and Cincinnati.

After a three-game series against the Giants, Atlanta on Monday of last week began a three-game inter-league series against the Los Angeles Angels. Atlanta won the first game of the series, but dropped the second two, including a one-run loss on Wednesday of last week.

I figured that Atlanta would have won its series against the Angels. Even though the Angels are currently second in their division, they’re having to adjust to playing without center fielder Mike Trout, who injured a ligament and blood vessel in his left thumb when sliding headfirst into home plate against the Marlins on May 28.

Trout, 25, is arguably the best player in all of baseball, and this trip to the disabled list is the first in his career. Just prior to his injury, Trout was leading the American League in all-star votes, but he isn’t expected to come off the disabled list until July 12, which is a day after the All-Star Game.

Getting back to the Braves, they got their first day off in three weeks last Thursday when they traveled from California to Ohio for a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds. Atlanta lost the first game by one run, but rebounded to win the series with victories on Saturday and Sunday.

Atlanta, who was in second place in the National League East standings on Monday morning, needed those two wins against the Reds, who are sitting at the bottom of the NL Central standings. Atlanta is still trailing the first place Nationals by double digits (10.5 on Monday), but they need every win they can get if they hope to make the playoffs.

I saw on Facebook where former Hillcrest coach Matt Blake and his family actually went to see the Braves play the Reds Friday at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. This relatively new ball park is located right on the banks of the Ohio River, a stone’s throw from Ohio’s border with Kentucky. I’ve never been to a game there, but I did drive by it on I-71 a few years ago on my way to points north. To say that it’s an impressive-looking ball park from the outside would be putting it mildly.

This week, Atlanta has the opportunity to really help their case when they play a four-game series against the Phillies and a three-game series against the Mets. All seven of those games will be played in Atlanta’s SunTrust Park, which should benefit the Braves, especially when you take into account that Philadelphia has the worst road record in Major League Baseball.

When you look at Atlanta’s schedule, the Braves really are entering a crucial period in their season. Starting Monday, the Braves will play 13 straight games against teams in their division. For Atlanta, this presents a perfect opportunity for the Braves to not only gain ground on the Nationals, but to also pull ahead of the teams currently trailing them in division play.

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