With twelve games left (including tonight’s) the Atlanta Braves need to secure wins now more than ever. Every game is important, no matter what team you are facing. Obviously you cannot win every game, but with so few games left, the Braves need to have the mindset of winning every single game.
This has been a crazy season for Atlanta. They had a rough start and have been plagued with injuries. The most significant of those being the loss of Ronald Acuña Jr. when he tore his ACL. However, the Braves have played harder and in my opinion, even better baseball after the loss of Acuña.
The Braves went from third place to first place in a matter of games. Their biggest rivals in late July were the New York Mets. They were never a fun team to play. The Mets have so many big name players and a great pitching staff. However, the Braves were able to capitalize on “must-win” opportunities and come through to gain sole possession of first place. Yes, they have been in first place all by themselves, but it has not been easy. At one point Atlanta had a six game lead in first place. That lead dropped down to one game on September 18th- three days ago. It was almost like things came to a complete halt for the Braves. Starting pitching was still continuing to produce without much flaw, and the bullpen was lights out…for the most part. Will Smith has been very inconstant for Atlanta. It is safe to say you can’t exactly trust him with a one run lead, maybe not even a two run lead. His latest blown save came in a very crucial game against the San Fransisco Giants on September 17th.
Another thing that has been a growing concern lately for the Braves is that their offense hasn’t been coming through. Offensively Atlanta has had their really hot moments where you couldn’t seem to get them out, and they’ve had their other moments where they couldn’t seem to make any contact and were striking out every at-bat.
The Atlanta Braves are coming down an extremely crucial stretch. They are half way through their four-game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and then they have to face the Padres, Phillies, and wrap up the season with the Mets. None of those series’ are going to be easy. Those three series will either make or break the Braves. Especially the one with the Phillies.
Atlanta is going to have to play even better baseball than they have shown that they are capable of doing throughout this season. All of Braves country wants to see their Atlanta Braves clinch the National League East for the fourth year in a row, and make it even farther in the postseason than they did last year.
Here’s three things the Braves need to capitalize on:
- Starting pitching needs to continue to come through:
Atlanta’s starting pitching got off to a rough start this season. They were giving up home runs, walks, and extra base hits almost every at bat. Not to mention they were gaining an ERA that wasn’t pleasant. However, the Braves starting pitching significantly improved after the All-Star Break. Max Fried and Charlie Morton have been the key men in Brain Snitker’s rotation. They have really come through for the Braves and will hopefully continue to give good, strong outings.
- The back of the bullpen needs to finish off close scoring games:
The Braves bullpen has been very good this year. Like Atlanta’s starting pitching, they got off to a rough start. The bullpen was walking too many guys and giving up too many home runs. Those “relief runs” almost always came back to haunt the Braves.
Atlanta did not re-sign Mark Melancon and he ended up with the Padres and has the most saves in all of MLB. He was a good pitcher when we had him and he has continued to show his skill as a closer. With Melancon being gone, the Braves signed Will Smith to be their closer.
On Paper, Smith looked very appealing. His ERA wasn’t bad and he had a good walk-to-strikeout ratio. However, his appearances for Atlanta have been underwhelming. It’s no secret Will Smith has trouble with the home run ball. In almost every appearance he makes, he gives up a home run. Some are more painful than others. And with him being the Braves so called closer, those runs really hurt. Hopefully, whatever his “problem” is, Smith will figure it out as the postseason push is getting closer and closer.
- The offense needs to heat back up:
All throughout this 2021 season, the Braves offense has been very “home run or nothing” heavy. In games where the offense is doing well and the Braves score multiple times, multiple home runs were hit. But the problem was, and in some cases still is, was that no one was on base. After the All-Star Break, the Braves were producing more runs scored without the home run, but they are still home run heavy.
When facing good teams who have good pitching, you aren’t going to get a home run pitch all the time. In fact you rarely get one of those…unless the pitcher has a mess up. This will prove very critical for the Braves if they make it in the postseason. They HAVE to be able to score without relying on a home run.
So with all of this to consider, our Atlanta Braves have a lot of pressure right now. A lot of people pretty much gave up on the Braves after Acuña went down in July. But Atlanta has shown that they don’t need Acuña to win baseball games and can play good baseball without him. They also have a lot riding on them that if they don’t win the NL East, for the fourth straight year, they won’y make it into the postseason. That is a HUGE punch in the gut. After everything that the Braves have gone through this year…for it to all be for nothing.
That is why they need to focus even more and win the ballgames that they need, to a prove that they are a good team. With twelve games left, it all comes down to this.