The Atlanta Braves saw their worst nightmare unfold Wednesday August 28th as they lost 4-3 in 13 innings to the Philadelphia Phillies,opening the door for the hard charging St. Louis Cardinals, who destroyed the Houston Astros 8-0, to capture the National League Wild Card. Incredibly, the Braves entered the month of September with an 8.5 game lead over St. Louis but they lost 18 of their final 26 games including the last 5. Only an almost identical collapse on the same night by the Boston Red Sox was worse on a historic scale. Think about how well the Cardinals played: they made up 8.5 games with 23 game remaining!!! Just an awful, awful night for Braves fans.
Anyone who consistently reads my blog knows I have been concerned about the injuries to star RHSPs Jair Jurrhens(Knee) and Tommy Hanson(Shoulder) and the toll that took on the entire pitching staff. When you have injuries to key rotation members you usually replace them with either kids or spot starters. These type of starts do not produce quality or quantity and tax the bullpen. Rookie Closer Craig Kimbrel, who had a ZERO ERA in both August and July after a 1.93 June as well as 1 blown save in 27 chances, was 1-1 with a 4.76 ERA and 5 saves in 8 chances including his blown save in Wednesday’s contest. Kimbrel’s Robin to his Batman, LH Jonny Venters, also flamed out late in the season. After posting sub 1.00 ERAs in 4 of 5 months, he was hit hard in September going 0-1 with a 5.11 ERA. Braves skipper Fred Gonzalez talked about his use of his two stud relievers September 29th, saying “At the end of the day, there’s a lot of stuff that you sit back and evaluate yourself on,” Gonzalez said ”And you go, “You know what? Maybe I could have done this a little different, done that different. If we don’t use those guys I don’t know if (we get) 89 wins, if we get to the situation we were in (Wednesday night). ” Gonzalez said.
I can see Fredi’s point and think this team overachieved to an extent. The Braves were an average offensive team and dealt with injuries to key players like RF Jason Heyward, 3B Chipper Jones and C Brian McCann throughout the season. 2B Dan Uggla was awful over the first half and we have touched on the two key rotation members. This team seemed to run out of gas and you have to give the Cardinals a ton of credit. That group went 23-9 while the Braves fell to 11-20 since August 25th . That is almost .750 ball. As bad as Atlanta played, St. Louis played that well. They deserved this. Saying that is going to hard for Braves fans but it is the truth.
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