The Coors Effect

September 26, 2009 11:36 PM

Rockies struggling to keep Braves at bay

Over the past few weeks, we've been operating under the assumption that the Rockies would need to hold off the Giants for the wild card.  That's happening.  The Giants, who have lost five of eight since Jorge shut them down on the 18th, are fading, and they're no longer a real threat to overtake the Rockies.

But the Braves, on the other hand... Excuse me for thinking the Braves were dead.  On September 6, the Braves lost a 12-inning game to drop their season record to 70-67, and they sat seven games behind the Rockies in the wild card race.  There was certainly time to make up the deficit, but it didn't look particularly likely.  Fast forward 20 days, and the Rockies are in solid shape at 87-67.  The Braves have caught fire and now sit three games back, after a 14-3 stretch that's pulled them within shouting distance of the wild card lead.

So, it's certainly helped the Braves that they haven't had a difficult schedule.  They've played six games against the Mets, who have pretty much packed it in already (the Braves won all six), and three against the Astros (they won two of those.)  They've played two against the Nationals, and will play them five more times before the season ends.  The Nationals appear mostly intent on winning the Bryce Harper Sweepstakes and probably would be happy to give the Braves a few more wins.  But the Braves also swept the Cardinals in three games in St. Louis.  Aside from losing two of three to the Phillies, the Braves have been the hottest team in baseball over the last couple of weeks.  It would be a pretty cruel twist of irony to see the Rockies lose the wild card to another team that got really hot over the last few weeks of the season.

Of course, the Rockies have nothing to worry about if they take care of business themselves over the eight-game finishing kick.  The good news is that the Rockies play five more at Coors: two more against the Cardinals, and three against the Brewers.  The bad news is that those teams (and the Dodgers, who the Rockies will visit on the final weekend of the season) will put up much more of a fight than the Nationals are likely to.  While it seems like the Rockies have struggled over the last week and a half, they've actually gone 5-3 over the last eight games.  Duplicate that record over the finishing stretch, and the worst thing that can happen is that they'll be in a tie for the wild card -- and for that to happen, the Braves would have to win all eight of their remaining games.

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