Depending on how this four-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers goes, the Atlanta Braves could find themselves in an excellent postseason playoff position by Labor Day.
That’s because the Dodgers are the only team right now that stands between the Braves and another National League Pennant. The Dodgers are four games behind the Braves. They could be as much as eight games ahead of the Dodgers if they sweep the series. Splitting the series would put the Braves higher up in the NL’s catbird seat than they are now.
The problem for the Braves is that like Atlanta, the Dodgers are red hot. They won four games in a row, and are getting a lot of run production from power hitters Mookie Betts and ex-Brave Freddie Freeman. Betts alone scored 26 RBIs in August and is topping the MLB Power Hitter Rankings this month. (Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. is third on that list. Matt Olson is sixth.)
Luckily for the Braves, they head into this series in LA with their bats on fire. Acuna (.334 batting average) is chasing an MLB record of 30 home runs and 60 stolen bases. Olson could tie legendary Brave Andruw Jones as the team member with the most homers overall. Ozzie Albies, Eddie Rosario, Marcell Ozuna, and Austin Riley are also launching balls out of the park.
The Braves now need another part of the equation to add up: pitching. That too, seems to be firming up with Spencer Strider (2.66 earned run average since the beginning of August), Charlie Morton (1.91) and Max Fried (3.58) especially looking sharper these days. Their gains are compensating for starting pitching and especially a bullpen which hadn’t always been on point after the All-Star break.
This four-game series with the Dodgers may not be a playoff series, but considering what it could do for the Braves and their playoff hopes, it’s probably the most consequential series of the year for the team.
The series starts tonight in LA (first pitch 10:10 pm) , and concludes Sunday.