By KEVIN MCALPIN
6810 THE FAN, ATLANTA – Here we go folks, the final week of the regular season is already upon us! Starting tonight, the Braves will play four against the second place Marlins and wrap up the final three at home against the Red Sox next weekend. Entering tonight’s action, Atlanta has a three game advantage on second place Miami in the standings, so many of you have asked who has more at stake in the next four days.
Obviously, nobody expected this matchup to have any real meaning when it came to the division standings when the schedule came out in July. It sure looked like the Braves would have a relatively easy final week and a half of the year, with the Orioles, Mets, Marlins and Red Sox all in the final four series. However, give the Fish credit. They’re playing with house money, and sure look like they have enough to get into the Postseason dance. However, will it be enough to emerge as Division champs?
I’ll believe it when I see it. Yes, the Marlins are a much improved ballclub. They’ve got some good young arms that have made a big impact to their success this season. Guys like Sixto Sanchez, Pablo Lopez and Sandy Alcantara are tough on opposing hitters. Offensively, they made a sneaky good move at the Trade Deadline to pick up Starling Marte from Arizona. They’re certainly not the pushover Marlins club we’re used to seeing in years past. But, are they ready to hang a banner as NL East champs?
In the end, I think Miami comes up just short. But, make no mistake, the rest of the NL East should be on notice that an already extremely competitive division is about to get even tougher with this young core still coming into their own. From the Braves perspective, they respect the Marlins. Freddie Freeman has been extremely complimentary of their young players the last two Spring Trainings. The talent is real and there’s a reason the Marlins enter the final seven games of the season in the top eight in the NL. But ultimately, I think the Braves experience and hunger to not just make the postseason will push them over the top and see them celebrate another NL East crown in the next few days. But, the Marlins are just getting started. And will be a thorn in the side of many teams in the NL East for a long, long time to come.
Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet