Even after taking the first two games of their series with the Dodgers, the Atlanta Braves will have to keep fighting to have any hope of staying in the race.
On Thursday night, the Atlanta Braves walked into Dodger Stadium and ended the Dodgers’ 11-game winning streak by taking game one, 6-3. On Friday, the Atlanta offense broke out for a 12-3 victory. But is the end of the line approaching for this young Braves team?
You could argue that Thursday night’s pitching matchup was in favor of Atlanta, but what about Friday, Saturday and Sunday? Friday night, the Braves sent out Jaime Garcia for what could possibly have been his last start for Atlanta against NL All-Star Alex Wood. Before the outing, Wood had amassed an 11-0 record with a 1.56 ERA, better numbers than even his teammate Clayton Kershaw. However, the Braves offense tagged him for nine runs (seven earned) to deliver Wood his first loss of the season
On Saturday night, Atlanta has its shot at a series-clinching win when Julio Teheran takes the mound to face Rich Hill. On the season, Teheran is 7-7 with a 4.69 ERA and has been dominant on the road thus far. In his last three starts Teheran has a 1-1 record, but most importantly a 1.86 ERA, which will prove to be vital against the lethal Dodgers bats.
As for Sunday? Yeah. Kershaw is on the mound.
This season the Braves have defied all odds, and by no means am I saying they can’t shock us again in Los Angeles. But this Dodgers team just won 31 of their last 36 and their pitching could very well lead them to the Fall Classic in October. Thursday and Friday night’s wins over the Dodgers did two things. First, they allowed the Braves a chance at a series sweep. Second, they gave Teheran an opportunity to arguably keep the season alive on his shoulders.
After sweeping the Arizona Diamondbacks and reaching .500 for the first time since April, the Braves gave the city of Atlanta a reason to tune in. The Braves found a way to battle through adversity all season long, and pulled themselves to 45-45 through 90 games, which in itself is remarkable.
Then the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs came to town, and knocked the Braves back down to reality. So why does this Dodgers series matter so much? Is the Wild Card an afterthought?
This series against the Dodgers not only presents the Braves with an opportunity to throw themselves back into the mix, but also carry momentum into a pivotal series in Phoenix next week. If Atlanta can find a way to win the series in L.A. and then take the series in Arizona, ladies and gents, the Braves will be in the conversation once again.
A while back I said, “Call me a dreamer. Call me a very hopeful spectator. Something is happening here in Atlanta,” and I still believe it is. This team has toed the line of being counted out all season, and somehow finds a way to get a string of wins in a crucial spot. With their backs against the wall Atlanta found a way to come out of the gates swinging and ended the Dodgers’ winning streak, and have now put themselves in a position to win just one of the next two games to take the series.
After traveling to Los Angeles and Phoenix, the Braves will travel to Philadelphia for a series they simply can’t afford to lose. The Phillies have been lackluster all season long but have managed to be a ruckus for Atlanta. Once the road trip concludes, the Braves will be given a break when they play the Marlins and Phillies at SunTrust Park.
Look, while I may be an optimist, the Braves are being given a fighting chance, which is all this team needs, but one thing is for certain: The season is on the line in Los Angeles.