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Braves at Deadline crossroad after tough stretch

Team played to 8-11 record against five postseason contenders
MLB.com @mlbbowman

PHOENIX -- The Braves have not embarrassed themselves as they have spent most of this month progressing through the most daunting part of their schedule. But at the same time, they have not improved their positioning in the postseason races or created reason to be buyers before Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.

There is a chance the Braves could add a controllable starting pitcher who could provide value next year and beyond. But for now they can only focus on where they currently stand after Aaron Blair's spot start set an early ominous tone during Wednesday afternoon's 10-3 loss to the D-backs at Chase Field.

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PHOENIX -- The Braves have not embarrassed themselves as they have spent most of this month progressing through the most daunting part of their schedule. But at the same time, they have not improved their positioning in the postseason races or created reason to be buyers before Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.

There is a chance the Braves could add a controllable starting pitcher who could provide value next year and beyond. But for now they can only focus on where they currently stand after Aaron Blair's spot start set an early ominous tone during Wednesday afternoon's 10-3 loss to the D-backs at Chase Field.

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"I think we have been playing [well] and I always talk about consistency," Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte said. "Today we didn't play the way we have been. Every time I come to the ballpark, I expect us to win."

There is certainly reason for the Braves to have a more genuine sense of confidence than they did during the earliest stages of their current rebuilding process. They are no longer the pushover they were in 2015 or for a majority of 2016. But 100 games into this season, they sit four games below .500 and may have to soon face the fact they are still at least a year away from being legitimate postseason contenders.

The Braves went 8-11 as they spent the past 19 games matching up against nothing but legitimate postseason contenders -- the Astros, Nationals, D-backs, Cubs and Dodgers. They swept Arizona to begin this season's second half and cooled the game's hottest team by taking the first two games of this past weekend's four-game set at Dodger Stadium.

"There's no doubt we can play with all of them," Braves catcher Tyler Flowers said. "I think we showed that against the Dodgers. We kind of showed that here [in Arizona], but we definitely showed it against them at home."

With a pair of setbacks during this week's trip to Phoenix, the Braves have lost seven of their past 10 games and now sit more than 11 games behind the first-place Nationals in the National League East race and more than eight games back in the chase to grab an NL Wild Card spot. The schedule does get friendlier, as seven of the next 10 games will be played against either the Phillies or Marlins. But the front office will not be tempted to make a deal to enrich this season's potential at the expense of the future.

This is not to say the Braves won't remain in the market for A's right-hander Sonny Gray or other controllable starting pitchers who might be available. The primary intention of any of these pursuits would be to secure a front-line starter who might provide more value than anything that might be available this winter, when the club begins shaping its 2018 rotation.

The Braves already served as sellers once this season, as they traded Jaime Garcia to the Twins for a moderate prospect and $4.75 million worth of savings. They now must determine whether to deal Brandon Phillips, Matt Adams and possibly Julio Teheran, whose perceived value might be enhanced in what is a thin starting pitching market.

"I want them to do whatever it takes to win games," Inciarte said. "They know what is better for the team, but for me I just want to go out there and feel like we can win every day. We have a great group of guys and I think there are a lot of aspects where we can get better."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves