The Atlanta Braves can clinch the NL East this week, but it won’t be easy.
A day after the Dirty Birds blew a 15-point lead with eight minutes left to fall to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2 of the 2020 NFL season, the Braves face a critical end to their 2020 60-game, coronavirus-shortened schedule. Atlanta (31-22) has a three-game lead over the Miami Marlins (28-25) and a four-game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies (27-26) in the NL East standings.
What are the chances the Braves go all Atlanta on us and blow another lead?
The Braves have been in first place in the NL East for almost the entire 2020 MLB season. This is a team with a fantastic offense, a dynamic bullpen and a great defense. Unfortunately, the starting rotation has been about as ugly as they come. Outside of southpaw ace Max Fried and rookie right-hander Ian Anderson, the Braves’ rotation has given us next to no reason to ever trust it.
With a third-straight division title on the line this week, the Braves have three magic numbers to keep an eye on in this final week: 3 to clinch a postseason berth, 4 to clinch the NL East over the Phillies and 5 to clinch the NL East over the Marlins. The good news is the Braves’ final games are at Truist Park, but they have four vs. rival Miami before the awful Boston Red Sox come to town.
Braves’ remaining 2020 regular-season schedule
- Monday, Sept. 21: vs. Miami Marlins (7:10 p.m. ET)
- Tuesday, Sept. 22: vs. Miami Marlins (7:10 p.m. ET)
- Wednesday, Sept. 23: vs. Miami Marlins (7:10 p.m. ET)
- Thursday, Sept. 24: vs. Miami Marlins (7:10 p.m. ET)
- Friday, Sept. 25: vs. Boston Red Sox (7:10 p.m. ET)
- Saturday, Sept. 26: vs. Boston Red Sox (7:10 p.m. ET)
- Sunday, Sept. 27: vs. Boston Red Sox (3:10 p.m. ET)
The best course of action is to beat the Fish early and often and not wait to beat the toothless Red Sox at Truist this weekend. There is no reason for the Braves to wait and see what the Marlins do against the New York Yankees up in the Bronx, nor see how the Phillies do in their four-game series with the bad Washington Nationals and three on the road with the elite Tampa Bay Rays.
If the season were to end today, the Braves would be the NL East winner and the No. 3 seed in the NL postseason picture, hosting the St. Louis Cardinals (26-24) for a best-of-three series at Truist. This is the same Cardinals team that gave Mike Foltynewicz and the Braves the Worst Inning Ever last year. It was another sign that the Braves call Atlanta home, and that’s how Atlanta sports go.
So at this time, the Braves have about a 94 percent chance of three-peating in the NL East, which is nice. However, those damn Dirty Birds had better than a 99 percent chance to win in Jerryworld on Sunday after went out there and ruined lives with yet another Dan Quinn Special. Brian Snitker is not Dan Quinn, but he does manage a pro team that calls Atlanta home, so that’s just fantastic.
Let me put this to you as bluntly as possible. If the Braves don’t win the NL East for the third year in a row with this big of a lead over the Fish and Phils this late in the season, it will be about as bad as the 2011 September disaster orchestrated by the reviled Fredi Gonzalez. That Braves team blew a double-digit lead for the NL Wild Card spot in the final month. No, I didn’t forget that year.
No victory is guaranteed with Atlanta sports until the clock strikes zero or the last out is recorded.