After their worst road trip since 1949, the Atlanta Braves captured two out of three games against the division leading Washington Nationals. With the Braves entering the series 4.5 games back, winning the set was essential.
Now 3.5 games back, the Braves enter a challenging four game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers before squaring up for three games against the Oakland A’s. With both opponents having the best record in their leagues, this stretch could be the most important and toughest for the Braves this season.
It’s imperative that the Braves scratch through these games with at worst a 4-3 record. The Nationals face the Mets and Pirates in their next two series and could potentially begin to run away with the division. Time is running out and the Braves have to begin to make their late season run soon rather than later.
The addition of Emilio Bonifacio to the leadoff spot has seemed to help the Braves offense. His .360 OBP since joining the Braves after the trade deadline is significantly better than what B.J. Upton was providing in the same spot. Bonifacio is getting on base at a good rate and already has three stolen bases in his seven games played. If his production continues, it could give the Braves the spark they need at the top of the order.
After hitting just .255 with two home runs in July, Freddie Freeman has picked it up in August. His .364 average and .417 OBP this month is something the Braves would love for Freeman to keep up in order to get the offense going. He’s an integral part of the offense and the key for the Braves to make a run at the division.
The Braves get a huge break in their series against the Dodgers. In an improbable occurrence, the Braves will avoid both Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in a four game series. The Dodgers will start newly acquired pitcher Kevin Correia on Monday and give their staff an extra day of rest. The absence of the Dodgers’ aces makes it crucial that the Braves take advantage of the pitching matchups.
It’s quite obvious that the Braves have underachieved this season – mainly their offense – but the division is still for the taking. With the Nationals having an up-and-down season themselves, the Braves find themselves right within striking distance despite being only three games over .500. A stretch like this against top tier opponents can make or break a season for any team in a pennant race, and the Braves will have to fight through it to have a chance at glory in October.