The Braves are chopping on into October again as they became the first National League team to reach 90 wins after three straight years or more 90-loss seasons since 1991's Worst to First team.
They ended the regular season at 90-72, but now the NL East champions will become like the rest of us -- spectators -- as they way for the rest of the postseason bracket to work itself out.
Chaos, yes glorious chaos, is unfolding in the Senior Circuit.
Brett DavisBrett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
1. Dodgers or Rockies? Wait continues for Braves as NL West goes to No. 163
Dodgers? Rockies? All the Braves know is they'll be opening the National League Division Series on the road as the NL West and a Wild Card spot will be decided on Monday afternoon when Los Angeles and Colorado meet in Game 163 in Chavez Ravine.
The winner gets the Braves. The loser gets the loser of the Cubs and Brewers, who are playing their own tiebreaker game for the NL Central crown.
So who should the Braves want to take on as the NLDS gets underway in either L.A. or Denver?
Atlanta was 2-5 against both teams, which included a four-game sweep at the hands of the Rockies at SunTrust Park on Aug. 16-19 in which the Braves were outscored 25-13 with a 4.15 ERA against its staff and the Dodgers outslugged them 17-4 during a July 26-29 series in Atlanta. The only second-half win the Braves have against either was Sean Newcomb's near no-hitter in the finale vs. Los Angeles.
Braves starters did have a collective 1.95 ERA in their three starts in Coors Field back in April, but that included outings from Brandon McCarthy -- out for the season -- and Sean Newcomb, who may not make the postseason rotation. Meanwhile, Kevin Gausman, who could be a Game 2 option behind Mike Folytnewicz, has never faced the Rockies, let alone pitched in Denver.
If it's the Dodgers, who are throwing Walker Buehler on Monday, that means potentially seeing Clayton Kershaw twice, and while he hasn't been the Kershaw of old, he's still threw six innings of one-run ball against the Braves on July 27.
Against the Rockies, the Braves do have some strong individual outings from likely starters to lean on. Foltynewicz threw seven scoreless innings vs. Colorado in August, with four hits, nine strikeouts and no walks and Anibal Sanchez held them to three earned on five hits in 6 2/3 innings when he last saw them on Aug. 19. And there's the fact that Julio Teheran has never given up a home run in 24 1/3 innings over four starts at Coors.
While Newcomb had his gem against the Dodgers, no expected NLDS starter allowed fewer than four earned runs against them.
Regardless of the opponent, maybe opening away from SunTrust is exactly what Atlanta needs. Its tied with the Dodgers for the NL's top road record at 47-34 and Los Angeles is the only NL team to hit better than the Braves outside its home park at 102 wRC+. At home, the Braves hit seven percent below league average, the lowest of any NL playoff team.
2. On Mike Foltynewicz to buck some Braves history in NLDS
In Mike Foltynewicz's breakout season, he's taken clear steps on the field -- he was a first-time All-Star with career bests in a long list of statistics, including ERA (2.85), strikeouts (202) and FIP (3.37) -- and off -- his son Jett was born in February, and he has a daughter on the way.
Now the Braves ace-in-the-making has another script to flip as the likely Game 1 starter for the NLDS.
The 26-year-old right-hander will be the fifth Braves pitcher to make his postseason debut in a Game 1 since the team moved to Atlanta (and the seventh in franchise history), joining Kris Medeln (in 2012's Wild Card Game), Tom Glavine (1991 NLCS), Pascual Perez (1982 NLCS) and Phil Niekro (1969 NLCS).
The Braves, though, lost every one of those games.
Foltynewicz has a collective 5.48 ERA in five starts against the NL's postseason teams. That ERA was pushed by his giving up five runs to Brewers on July 6 and four against the Cubs (Aug. 30) and Dodgers (July 27), but playoff squads also provided two of the righty's most impressive performances of the season.
As noted above, Foltynewicz had that sensational outing vs. the Rockies on Aug. 18 and he fanned 10 Cubs on May 15 over five innings.
Those starts were at home, and if Foltynewicz is going to make a home start in the postseason, it won't come until at least the NLCS. He hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in any of his last four road starts ... but Foltynewicz also hasn't faced a team away from SunTrust Park that finished more than two games above .500 since he took on Milwaukee in that aforementioned July start.
One of the biggest positives from Foltynewicz's last two months has been his ability to push past the fifth inning. He did that six times before July and has done it 12 times since, and meanwhile the fastball velocity has continued to be among the game's best. Only six pitchers in the second half have been better than Foltynewicz's 96.2 mph average.
With the potential that he could make two starts in the NLDS -- Games 1 and 5 -- Foltynewicz has proven himself to be a workhorse heading into the postseason.
Bill StreicherBill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
3. Nick Markakis' regular season was an iron man season for the aged
When he took the field Sunday in Philadelphia, Nick Markakis became only the fifth player in Braves history to start all 162 games in a season. But beyond a milestone moment for the franchise, it continued a year for the aged when it comes to the right fielder.
The 34-year-old become just the ninth player age 34 or older to start every game in a season since both leagues started playing 162 in 1961 and the first since Ichiro Suzuki did it in 2010 at age 36.
In all, it's been done 13 times (three by Pete Rose and two from Cal Ripken Jr.), and Markakis' season, in which he hit .297/.366/.440 with 185 hits, 43 doubles, three triples, 14 home runs and his first All-Star appearance stacks up favorably.
Markakis' 115 wRC+ is the fifth-highest of those 13 seasons. He trails only Rose in 1975 (138 wRC+) and '79 (134) when he was 34 and 38, respectively; Raul Ibanez in 2008 (122 at age 36) and Rusty Staub's 116 in 1978 at age 34. Meanwhile, Markakis' 2.6 WAR is sixth, behind Rose in 1975 (5.3), Ichiro's 4.7 in 2010 at age 36, Ripken at 3.8 in '96 at 35, Rose in '79 (3.5) and Ibanez (2.8 in '08).
But beyond value, Rose in '75 and Ripken in '97 and '96 were the only players to start all 162 on teams that would go on to the postseason. It's heady company as Markakis turned in what was, statistically, his best season in a Braves uniform.