The Braves are *only* 4 games out of the wild card trailing only the San Francisco pitching staff and the Colorado Luckies. The question is: can the Braves overtake both teams? and if so, how?
As to the first, the answer is most certainly yes.
As for the second, there lies our discussion.
A few things have to go right for the Braves to surge into the wild card. Namely:
The Rockies and Giants have to split their remaining 6 games. With only 38 games remaining, the best chance the Braves have is to have the Rockies and Giants effectively ensure that neither team surges ahead allowing the Braves to make a come back. Either team winning a majority of those games would mean a tougher climb for the Braves.
Relatedly, the Braves have to keep doing what was successful in the 90's: Winning Series. While an 8 game winning streak would certainly be great; a much more reasonable approach is to just keep winning 2 out of 3 and hope to sweep a series or two along the way. If the Rockies and Giants continue at their current winning % (average of 55.2%), they can be expected to win 21 more games this season. That means to tie them, the Braves would need to win 25 more games (or 66%, which is 2/3 of their games). Looking at the schedule, all three teams have similar schedules remaining with their opponents all having a winning % around 50%.
In order to win each series the Braves need a few things to happen:
(1) Lowe needs to start earning his money. He has been arguably the weakest starting pitcher for the Braves over the past month. If he can pitch reasonably well the Braves have a chance.
Do I think will happen? Actually, yes I do. Lowe has shown signs of fatigue since mid-season due to pitching in Atlanta heat. With cooler weather coming up in September along with the possibility of extra rest due to Tim Hudson's return (see item 2), Lowe could be in good shape for the stretch run.
(2) The Braves need to find a way to use Tim Hudson. Most pundits are mentioning the possibility of a 6 man rotation when Hudson returns and the rosters expand. This seems, to me, like the best way to utilize him. It would allow all our starters to pitch on extra rest including:
Kawakami: who is used to a 6 man rotation from his time in Japan.
Lowe: who, as mentioned above, looks fatigued and could use extra rest.
Hanson: who is surpassing his workload from previous years
Jurjjens: who is still young and whose arm we don't want to wear out.
The only person this might affect negatively is Vazquez who has been a stud all year. But he is a veteran and I think a little breather could help him as well.
(3) The Braves need to get healthy.
We need McClouth's bat and legs.
We need Chipper's timely hitting.
We need Prado's grit.
(I never thought I'd say this) We need Garrett's clutch hitting.
(4) Bobby needs to trust his pen. Relately, some key guys should be coming back.
Moylan, Soriano, and Gonzalez can't keep the bullpen together by themselves. Bobby is going to have to put Acosta and Medlen (who has looked dynamite lately) in more situations. Along with that Jojo, Buddy, and Parr (and perhaps even Hudson) could come back and help stimulate the bullpen.
(5) The rest of the hitters need to keep on chugging. McCann, LaRoche, Infante, Diaz have all been swinging hot sticks lately. They need to keep the team afloat til the re-inforcements arrive.
I know this seems like a big list, but my homerdom thinks it's achieveable. Go Braves!