By KEVIN MCALPIN
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – With less than two weeks left in the regular season, the Braves enter tonight’s series opener in Baltimore with a three-and-a-half game lead over the now second place Marlins, as Miami swept a twin bill from Philly yesterday in South Florida. With the loss, the Phils now find themselves in third place in the division, four games shy of the first place Braves. This week should provide a big lift for the Atlanta rotation as they’re set to get Cole Hamels in a Big League game for the first time all year on Wednesday and Max Fried is expected to return from a brief stint on the IL in Friday night’s opener at Citi Field against the Mets.
In an ideal scenario, the club would have a big week against a couple of fourth place clubs and have an opportunity to clinch the division early next week at home and be able to set up their playoff rotation. Keep in mind, the postseason will look differently with a best of three series to start, so, in a perfect world, they’d use two starters, advance and be able to line up their rotation for the next round. Look for the club to likely split the lefties with Anderson possibly going as early as game two. While we haven’t seen Cole Hamels as of yet, he certainly has the back of the baseball card to show proven success in October. Keep in mind, Hamels was a huge part of that Phillies run, including taking home the World Series MVP in 2008. Yes, that was 12 years ago, but having a guy with that pedigree could be huge for this rotation going into October.
One thing is for certain. No matter who the Braves draw for their first round matchup, the only thing that truly matters is advancing. It’s been two decades since the team experienced success in the Playoffs, a storyline this group is eager to eliminate. When it comes to longer series, Josh Tomlin, who pitched in the World Series just a few years ago with Cleveland, would likely be the Braves best bet for a fourth starter.
Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet.