MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – We are a few days away from being at the midway point of the baseball season, and there is a good chance when we get there the Braves will still be in first place.
We all wish we could say we predicted this, but no one did. No one, even with the team, likely believed the Braves would be in first place this late in the season. And while there are plenty of games left, it’s now worth asking if the Braves can survive this long season and be in the playoff hunt in September. My answer is… why not?
Why wouldn’t they be able to keep playing good baseball and at least stay in the race? They may not stay in first place for the entire summer, but they’ve showed us plenty of reasons why they are unlikely to do what the Mets did. New York was 17-9 at the end of April and in first place. They’ve played 50 games since then and won only 14 times. They are done. And I just don’t see the Braves doing that. They got into first place with their hitting, with a lineup that can be very dangerous at times.
But they’ve stayed in first place because of their pitching, particularly the starting pitching. Atlanta is the only National League team this season to not have a losing streak of longer than three games. That is a sign the rotation is doing its job. Now we know that Mike Soroka is out for two months, so he won’t be back until around Labor Day. They are still watching Julio Teheran and Mike Foltynewicz closely from their time on the disabled list.
And then there are the veterans – Anibal Sanchez, who has also missed time, and Brandon McCarthy, who usually always misses time at some point in the baseball season. They need Sean Newcomb to continue to pitch well, and he’s on his way to an All-Star spot with the way he’s pitched. Of course, the Braves need bullpen help. Closer Arodys Vizcaino is out now, but he’s expected back this weekend and they don’t believe he has a serious problem. They still need another arm or two for that bullpen.
The lineup will be improved this weekend when Ronald Acuna gets back, and manager Brian Snitker says he will hit Acuna in the middle of the lineup. Ender Inciarte and Ozzie Albies have been great in the last week at the top of the order, and we all know Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis are also headed to the All-Star game.
The Braves are on pace for 90-plus wins, and there’s reason to believe they could even be better in the second half of the season. It’s a long season, and things must fall right for this team. But it has so far, which gives you reason to believe the Braves can be in this race. The Nationals were favored to win the division, but they have struggled to get on track. It’s just not clicking for them right now, but it has for the Braves.
And there are plenty of reasons to believe they can keep this up. It’s not going to be easy, but this is a good team that could get better. And that will certainly help get us all to survive until football season starts, which is right around the corner.