Most of what I have read or heard over the past few weeks has stressed the importance of momentum heading into the postseason. I do not share the same sentiment. I do not necessarily think the people who believe momentum is extremely important are wrong, I just do not know how to measure it and there have been a number of incidents both for and against the theory that I have a difficult time finding it to be as important as others do.
What I do find to be important is having the best record in the National League. My thought has changed on this since earlier in the year. Originally, I did not value having home field and playing the wild card winner as much as I currently do. The main reason for that right now is the Dodgers. If the Braves are going to win the World Series, there is a pretty good chance that they will have to beat the Dodgers regardless, but facing them in the first round is definitely worrisome.
Thankfully the Dodgers have a pitcher's ballpark, so throwing Julio Teheran out in game three would not be too worrisome (him and Mike Minor are home run friendly pitchers so keeping them in pitcher ballparks is at least somewhat important). Even so, if there is one team in the National League that is scary it is difficult to pick a team other than the Dodgers. I would much rather face the winner of the Reds and Pirates game, after the winner uses its best or at least one of its starters in the stupid game.
The Reds and Pirates are both good teams, for certain, but I doubt that I am alone in feeling more confident in the Braves facing one of those two teams than I would be facing the Dodgers.
Add that fact to the likelihood that not only would the Braves have to beat the Dodgers, then there would be a good chance that they also have to beat the Cardinals in the NLCS (with no home field advantage) and then an American League team (with no home field advantage), and you can see why I am placing a lot of value in overtaking the Cardinals to win the National League outright.
Right now the Braves and Cardinals are tied in the loss column. Going 3-1 gives the Braves a great chance to win gain home field advantage as the Braves hold the tiebreaker over the Cardinals due to winning four-of-seven games this season. The Cardinals are facing the Cubs in Chicago and will face three decent pitchers in Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, and Jeff Samardzija. In the meantime the Braves will face Tyler Cloyd, Cliff Lee, Zach Miner, and the dreadful TBD (I feel like he always beats us, that darn TBD). I like the Braves odds given those scenarios, but this is baseball and at this point it is pretty close to a coin flip in terms of the chances the Braves or Cardinals walk away with home field.
The Dodgers are technically still alive and could pass the Braves for home field, but the magic number for the Braves to clinch at least the second seed is two. I would bet against the Dodgers passing the Braves. While this is not necessarily the biggest start David Hale will ever have, it is a pretty important. Thankfully the Braves best three starters will finish off the season. Here's to a great series against Philadelphia.