The Braves (79-53) are the hottest team in baseball and trail the Phillies by six games in the National League East.
Don't look now, but the Braves have been making a hell of a ruckus and have won 16 of their last 21, including Thursday's win over the Cubs. They're in the driver's seat for the Wild Card by securing a 9.5-game advantage in the race, which is almost unheard of in the National League. The reason for the recent tear? Maybe the best offense in baseball since the All-Star break, including five of the top 19 NL hitters since the turn, including Chipper Jones, Jose Costanza, Dan Uggla, Freddie Freeman and Michael Bourn, who had four hits Thursday and was praise by Brian McCann afterward as the missing piece.
“Man, what a pickup for us,” McCann told the AP. “He brings so much to the table. He plays a good center field and can fly. It’s everything we’ve needed around here for the last four or five years.”
Reason the second: Craig Kimbrel and their lights-out bullpen. Kimbrel recorded his 40th save Tuesday which tied the MLB rookie record. He and setup man Jonny Venters own the longest and second-longest scoreless inning streaks in baseball among starters and relievers.
The Braves have rolling, but could suffer a huge setback. Tommy Hanson left the team and returned to Atlanta to have his ailing shoulder re-evaluated by team doctors after a bullpen session showed no improvement. Hanson has been on the disabled list since Aug. 7 because of right rotator cuff tendinitis.
Capuano: With Hunter Pence helping strengthen the offense, the Phillies could turn their attention toward the bullpen, which has shown cracks this week. One intriguing name is Mets starter Chris Capuano (9-11, 4.71), who has reportedly cleared waivers and has pitched better than his numbers suggest. The lefty has pitched in the bullpen before and is holding left-handed hitters to a .233/.293/.364 slash line.
1964 parallel? "The Braves acquistion of Bourn reminds me of 1964 when the Cardinals picked up Lou Brock from the Cubs for Ernie Broglio. I hate to sound negative, but on August 25, 1964, the Phillies' lead in the NL was 6 games. It doesn't look like Atlanta is going to slow down any time soon. Why does it feel like we are chasing the Braves?" - Rich D