Braves book postseason spot -- what's next?
WASHINGTON -- Though the Braves are anxiously awaiting the chance to celebrate a second straight National League East title, they secured a postseason spot with Saturday’s 10-1 win over the Nationals.
The Braves’ magic number to clinch a division title is four with 12 games remaining. But for now they have at least guaranteed themselves one of the NL’s two Wild Card spots. The magic number for a Wild Card spot is one. But head-to-head games among the remaining contenders would prevent enough clubs from simultaneously matching the Braves’ current win total (93).
Still, the focus remains on clinching the NL East and vying for home-field advantage while possibly enjoying what would be the seventh 100-win season in Atlanta history (since 1966).
If the Braves win the division and fall short in their bid to pass the Dodgers and secure the NL’s best record, they would face the NL Central winner in the NL Division Series. The Cardinals currently lead that division race, but the Cubs and Brewers are lurking.
How did they fare against those two teams?
4-2 vs. Cardinals. All of those games were played in May.
3-3 vs. Brewers. Both teams won their home series.
5-2 vs. Cubs. The Braves swept a three-game set in April and then split four games at Wrigley Field in June.
What is the NLDS schedule?
Games 1 and 2 of the best-of-five NLDS presented by Utz are scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 3, and Friday, Oct. 4. Game 3 is Sunday, Oct. 6, with Games 4 and 5 (if needed) on Monday, Oct. 7, and Wednesday, Oct. 9.
What’s left to play for this month?
The Braves are just three games behind the Dodgers in the battle for the best record. Some can argue it would be better to match up against the NL Central winner instead of having to possibly compete against the Nationals' rotation in the five-game series matchup that would be created if Atlanta finished with the best record and Washington won the Wild Card Game. But the Braves have won 11 of their past 15 against the Nationals and going up against St. Louis’ Jack Flaherty in Game 1 of the NLDS wouldn’t necessarily be a picnic.
What’s the status of injured players?
Center fielder Ender Inciarte is hoping to return from a hamstring injury before the regular season concludes, but his postseason availability remains questionable. Utility man Johan Camargo will be sidelined through the NLDS with a fractured shin and could possibly miss the rest of the year. The Braves’ bench then got thinner on Saturday when Charlie Culberson may have sustained facial fractures when he was hit by a Fernando Rodney pitch.
Who’s in the starting rotation?
Mike Soroka and Dallas Keuchel are the only definite members of Atlanta’s postseason rotation. Left-hander Max Fried has strengthened his resume during the second half, but he has had a couple rough outings over the past few weeks. Julio Teheran struggled this past week in Philadelphia, but the veteran has been consistent while producing a 2.94 ERA over his past 24 starts. Mike Foltynewicz has been the hottest pitcher, producing a 1.52 ERA over his past five starts. The opponent’s strengths and tendencies will likely determine whether Fried, Teheran or Foltynewicz is the odd man out.