MLB News Update
1. Atlanta Braves (68-45), 2. Washington Nationals (54-58), 3. Philadelphia Phillies (50-61), 4. New York Mets (49-60)
The Atlanta Braves are cruising to a division title in the National League East.
With just a couple months left in the baseball season the Atlanta Braves now have a 13.5 game lead over second place Washington. They’ve won 11 straight games to put themselves 23 games over .500 and they’ve picked up an additional 3.5 games on the Nationals over the past week. Their lineup still looks like it could have some issues in the post season but if they ever get a lead their bullpen is just lights out. Over the course of the winning streak the Braves bullpen has allowed just two earned runs in 36 innings. They have the best bullpen ERA in baseball and one of the most dominant closers in the game in Craig Kimbrel. When you add in Jordan Walden, Luis Avilan, David Carpenter, and Scott Downs, the Braves bullpen is a nightmare for any opponent. The loss of Tim Hudson for the season hurts the starting rotation but again, all they need is a respectable outing from their starters and a couple runs on the board and they’re in great shape. With this lead they should be able to cruise the rest of the way, they just better hope that doesn’t hurt them heading into the playoffs. We’ve seen teams perform better when they had to play great baseball down the stretch and the Braves certainly won’t have to do that. Atlanta has a chance to further cement their division title by taking two more from Washington this week. They’ll host the Marlins this weekend after an off day on Thursday.
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The Nationals have been trying to convince everyone that they’re not out of the division race but they’ve done nothing this year to make anyone believe they have a lengthy run in them. Their chances got off to a poor start with a 3-2 loss to the Braves last night and right now they’re seven games behind the Cincinnati Reds for the second Wild Card berth. Gio Gonzalez will look to bounce back tonight after he was hammered in Detroit last week, allowing 10 earned runs in 3 1/3 innings pitched as he watched his ERA increase from 2.97 to 3.57 on the year. Washington still can’t score, as they rank third to last in all of baseball with 415 runs scored on the year. Bryce Harper has tried to do it all and that has left him with a meager .267 batting average after starting the year red hot. Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond have been the best Nationals offensively but that tells you all you need to know. This has been an extremely disappointing year for Washington who came in with such high expectations. Their only hope is to start playing better baseball and hope to take advantage of an inconsistent Cincinnati club.
What in the world has happened to the Philadelphia Phillies? They’re an unbelievable 2-13 since the All Star Break, have lost five straight, and are now 17 games back in the division and in a dead tie with the New York Mets for third place. They failed to move any of the aging, expensive veterans at the trading deadline and it just doesn’t look like there’s any plan for the club moving forward. Ruben Amaro Jr. looks like he wants to resign an older and injury prone Chase Utley. They’re locked into Cliff Lee for a long time and he’s not getting any younger. Ryan Howard’s contract is one of the worst in baseball. Add in the fact that they don’t have much to look forward to in the minor leagues because of all the trades they made over the last few years making runs at championships and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Lee returned from his stiff neck to pitch on Sunday night but took the loss after allowing three earned runs in five innings. He’s now lost his last three starts and has allowed 12 earned runs in 18 innings. The Phillies are a mess right now and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them finish fourth in the division when all is said in done.
In New York the Mets have hit a rut lately as well. They’re 3-7 in their last 10 games and right in the middle of it all was losing two of four in Miami against the Marlins. The Mets just can’t seem to figure out how to beat one of the worst teams in baseball and they don’t seem to recover well from it afterward either. They followed it up by losing two of three to the Kansas City Royals that ended in a Sunday loss filled with a comedy of errors. Zack Wheeler was cursed by the defense of Marlon Byrd in right field who lost numerous balls in the sun. His catcher couldn’t keep a ball in front of him either. Wheeler has struggled with his control since being called up and that continued as he walked five in the ballgame. The team promoted their best position prospect in Wilmer Flores on Tuesday and he should take the place of David Wright at third base while the All-Star recovers from a hamstring injury that has landed him on the disabled list. Closer Bobby Parnell is also expected to be placed on the disabled list with a stiff neck. They’ll host the Colorado Rockies this week before heading West to start an 11 game road trip.
The Marlins have been playing better baseball as they’ve gone 8-9 since the All-Star break. That might not sound like anything special but for a team that seemingly only won a couple games each week in the first half that’s not so bad. It all starts with young right hander Jose Fernandez who continued his dominance on Friday night against the Cleveland Indians. Fernandez had 14 strike outs and allowed no runs and just three hits as he picked up his eighth win of the season. This is a guy who is 8-5 for a club that’s 24 games under .500. Giancarlo Stanton has really been on a cold streak recently, collecting just one base hit in his last six games. Christian Yelich is sporting an acceptable .278 average since being called up from the minor leagues. Miami has a tough week ahead of them with road series in Pittsburgh and Atlanta.