FOXSportsSouth.com checks in with play-by-play announcer Chip Caray to discuss the latest surrounding the Braves.
FOXSPORTSSOUTH.COM: Chip, the Braves enter the weekend in a spot where they can’t afford any more setbacks. Not only are they still chasing the Pirates — whose magic number is seven — but they host the Mets, who could close the gap for second in the division. With this situation Atlanta finds itself in, where not much has gone right since the All-Star break, every player wants to control their destiny and to a point, the Braves have that.
CHIP CARAY: If I read through the standings right, I think what the Braves want to happen is, Milwaukee goes to Pittsburgh and sweeps the Pirates. Then the Braves see Pittsburgh and sweeps them, then it goes to the final weekend when you have three teams within a game of each other for the final wild-card spot.
That is not the best scenario. The Braves don’t completely control their destiny because their six games out of the wild card and they need some help.
It’s very simple. We can do all the math and we can say what the theoretical projections are, who has to beat whom — and not to beat a dead horse here — but the Braves have to win.
If they win and they have a chance in whatever it is; if they don’t win they have no chance. Unfortunately, that’s the situation that they’ve played themselves in.
FSS.COM: This has been an odd week for the Braves. They break ground on their new stadium, then have to watch their biggest rival celebrate a division title on their field. Does that provide any kind of a wakeup call, as if the Braves needed it at this point in the season?
CC:I would hope so. I don’t think any professional athlete likes to see their main rivals celebrate a goal that they had for themselves on their own field.
Whatever professional pride that stokes is up to the individual player. I certainly didn’t like it and I’m not one of the players, and I’m sure the other broadcasters didn’t like it either.
If the Braves aren’t happy about that, they have no one to blame but themselves for the situation. They were tied with the Nationals with about a 100 games to play and utterly collapsed on the offensive side of things.
If that’s what needs to get fixed, that’s where the team needs to find some resolve and play the right way. We talk about it on the air a lot: it’s a tough game played by tough guys. But you still have to play the game and it’s the little things that have really, really hurt this team in critical run-scoring spots.
Washington did those things better. It did them better in the series and if Atlanta wants to go to the playoffs, it has to do it, it’s that simple.
Manager has talked about it, hitting coaches have talked about it, national experts have talked about it, we’ve talked about it and I’m sure the players have talked about it. But the time to talk is over; the time for doing is here.
FSS.COM: Offensively, we know the power hasn’t been there, the strikeouts are and the runs just haven’t come as expected. When you look at this group compared to a year ago, what has been the biggest difference at the plate?
CC:The power, No. 1, the strikeouts are there and the lack of situational hitting.
Sabermetricians are notably silent this time of year when we talk about strikeouts not being important. Strikeouts are just another out, statistically-speaking, they keep saying that. Well, maybe the statistics say that, but you can make numbers say whatever you want.
At the end of day, when you look at the situational hitting of the Braves — runner at third with less than two outs — how many times have the Braves struck out? How many times have the Braves struck out with runners at second and third with nobody out or one out? Those are big outs over a course of a ballgame, especially when you’re offense struggles.
The lack of ability to make two-strike adjustments, to put the ball in play, to hit the ball the other way up and down the lineup has been very noticeable.
This is a team that was built to hit homers. Last year they were fourth in runs scored because they hit 181 homers. They had guys on base and they were blasting away.
That’s a great and entertaining style of baseball to play when the homers are coming. But when you get to postseason play, it’s not often when teams hit three or four home runs in a ballgame.
Last year the Braves had trouble manufacturing runs in the playoffs against really good starting pitching and this year they had trouble manufacturing runs against any starting pitching.
That to me jumps to the top of the page: a team that’s built for power, what does it do when it doesn’t get the power? The answer to that for the Braves this year is they don’t score very much.