Everyone knew the Atlanta Braves were going to have a tough time making a run at the NL East crown this year with so many injuries to key players before the season even began.
But in true Braves fashion, they got off to a hot start and took the division lead, acting as if nothing had changed and that their roster had been set since last October.
Key starting pitchers Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy gone? No problem. Enter free agent Ervin Santana and journeyman Aaron Harang.
Lose important setup man Jonny Venters? Step right up Jordan Walden.
Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton swinging the bat like it was a dead codfish and striking out a near record paces? P’shaw…bring on Tommy La Stella and….well, ok, they still haven’t figured out the B.J. Upton problem (more on that later).
The point is, that it was a constant flow of next-man-up for the Braves. And it worked.
For a while.
In April the Braves had the best record in the NL East at 17-8. In May, they had the second best record at 13-16…still nowhere near time to panic. In June, they again at the second best record in the division at 15-13. But in July…that’s when things started to go sour.
Atlanta finished July with a 13-13 record, good for fourth best in the division. Everyone else was getting stronger and heating up, meanwhile the Braves were beginning to limp and show signs of a weakened roster. Halfway through August, they sit at 4-9 for the month…worst record in the division.
With an 8-game losing streak from July 29 to August 6, and losers of 12 of their last 16 games, the Braves are in one of the worst funks the team has seen in many years. They now find themselves 6.5 games behind the first place Washington Nationals (one of the only teams they’ve been able to beat regularly this season), and playoff hopes are beginning to fade away.
So what – if anything – can the Braves do to break out of this bad stretch they find themselves? Pitching – it is what it is at this point, the Braves have to work with what they have. Injuries – part of the game. Every club deals with them. But there are some keys that can possibly right the ship.