The Braves: Probably not, but you never know…

I’m off to cover the Braves-Giants game tonight–working on a piece on Smoltz for Choptalk–and if Atlanta can pull out a win, I’m starting to feel good about their chances for at least making a run at the wild card.

I’d always set 2 1/2 as a benchmark–if we were 2 1/2 games out or less at the end of August, I wouldn’t pack up the plantation. Best-case scenario, we’ll be 3 out, thanks to the Padres’ recent hot run. But the rest of the National League is such a crew of nancies–the topic of my upcoming column for the Chicago Sports Review–that anybody who makes a run is right there in the mix. (See the Marlins, who reeled off 9 wins and went from 9 down to 2 down in that time.)

Our pitching, outside of Smoltz, Wickman, Chuck James, and occasionally Hudson, absolutely blows. Fortunately, our bats are some of the best in the league. Now as long as we can score 23 runs a game, we’ll be set.

No margin for error now. And the two series against Philly and the Mets this next week are–without hyperbole–the most critical regular-season series Atlanta has played in a decade.

This time next week, we’ll have a good idea of whether it’s worth watching the rest of the season…or making plans for 2007.

Jay

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