Originally posted on Tomahawk Blog
After 70 games the Braves are 6.5 games back in the NL East. Considering all that the Braves have been through with injuries and just plain old bad luck, it's surprising this team isn't looking at a double digit deficit. There is hope for the future, but has the damage aready been done?
Despite all the injuries to the pitching staff, Bobby Cox could still come out of the All-Star break with a solid rotation. The loss of John Smoltz really hurt, but Jair Jurrjens has stepped up and became a very solid number two starter. The young righty has compiled a very respectable 6-3 record and 3.77 ERA. Even Jurrjens fell victom to the Braves injury bug when he twisted his ankle while walking down the clubhouse stairs in Chicago after Tuesday's loss to the Cubs. The 22 year-old missed his start the next day, but is starting tonight in Colorado.
Tim Hudson has been magnificent while stepping up to become the ace of the staff. Even after the bullpen blew two saves for him, he still has a 7-4 record. Hudson is also fifth in NL in both ERA (2.76) and innings pitched (98).
Jo-Jo Reyes has proven to be a dependable mid-rotation starter. Despite a losing record (3-4), Reyes has made great improvements since the beginning of the season when he had trouble with his control. The 23-year-old lefty has allowed no more than four earned runs in each of his past three starts.
Another welcomed surprise has been the play of Jorge Campillo. In six starts since leaving the bullpen, he is 2-1 with a very good 2.17 ERA. Campillo has yet to give up more than four runs in any of his starts. On Sunday against the Angels, he went eight strong innings giving up only two runs on seven hits, but still got the loss.
Even though the bullpen has been hit hard with injuries, they are still fourth in the NL with a 3.33 ERA. Bobby Cox isn't really sure when closer Rafael Soriano will be back at full strength, but Mike Gonzalez should return to action in the next week to ten days.
If the Braves are to make a run at the Phillies, they will need Tom Glavine to return to the rotation along with a healthy closer whether it's Soriano or Gonzalez. There is also a chance that Mike Hampton could finally be nearing a return. If he can pitch like he is capable, Roger McDowell's job could get alot easier.
Mark Kotsay is also close to making a return from a bad back. Before going to the DL, the center fielder was having a nice season at the plate with a .294 batting average.
Even if they are able to get these guys back within the next month, and Chipper Jones is able to stay healthy, will the Braves be close enough to make a run at the division? It's going to take some good luck. That's one thing the Braves are running short on.