Chopcast: Braves contending for NL's top seed

BY foxsports • July 30, 2013

ATLANTA -- Hosting the two highest-scoring teams in the National League the past few nights, the Atlanta Braves and their pitching staff have proven themselves to be fully capable of handling the injuries that have plagued them of late.

With a four-game winning streak (and counting) -- starting with a sweep of the Cardinals and continuing with a Coors-esque outpouring of runs on Monday against the Rockies -- the Braves belong among the NL's elite, if they hadn't all season. Even with the recent loss of Tim Hudson, among many other Braves players dealing with various short-term injuries (Paul Maholm, B.J. Upton, Jordan Schafer, Reed Johnson), the team has found a way to keep a stranglehold on the NL East while positioning themselves for a possible shot at the league's No. 1 overall seed.

So, could the Braves make a run at the designation of top NL team by season's end? Our Braves writers -- Zach Dillard, Cory McCartney and Jay Clemons -- discuss that and more on the latest edition of the Chopcast. Here are the highlights:

-- Are there any takeaways from Brandon Beachy's first MLB start since Tommy John surgery? What were the positives, aside from Atlanta winning the game?

-- How could the Braves capture the NL's best record? Does their schedule favor them over, say, the Cardinals, Pirates, Reds or Dodgers? Would they need to make a trade or waiver-wire pick-up to make it probable?

-- Would Chris Johnson be the biggest underdog of a batting champion in history? Why are teams continuing to challenge him, especially when he's slotted in the 8-hole?

-- Could Braves history actually be on Johnson's side?

-- This sounds familiar, but: How many hitters are playing better baseball than Andrelton Simmons right now?

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