We've talked a lot about the Braves hitting rock bottom. A 10-1 loss to the offensively-challenged Padres? An 8-game losing streak? Suffering a combined no-hitter? Nope, the Braves hit rock bottom yesterday afternoon. Julio Teheran pitched a complete game but once again, a lovely pitching performance went in vain as the offense was absolutely anemic. The Rangers, meanwhile, have picked up their first home series victory since July. As you can see right there in the title of this post, it is September. Is it still possible that the Braves can make the Postseason? Yes. Is it probable? About as probable as a snowstorm in Miami.
Granted, there's no predicting when injuries or illnesses will strike, but this was an extremely inopportune time for Evan Gattis to miss time. Gattis ended up missing the entire Washington series due to Strep Throat, and after it appeared that power-hitting catcher would return this weekend, the symptoms flared up again. Now, Gattis has missed the first two games of the series and will also miss today's finale. Unfortunately, his return may be a bit too late to save any realistic hopes that the Braves may have at reaching the Postseason.
Meanwhile, another burning question that is swirling around Evan Gattis is how much longer he'll even be a Brave, as the Braves will have an interesting decision on their hands. Will they choose to use Bethancourt as their regular catcher, will they keep Gattis on as the regular catcher for another season, or will they use Gattis as a bear-sized trade chip this Winter? From Mark Bowman's article:
As the Braves fight for a playoff spot with the hope their maddening offense will start to provide consistent production, it is easy to understand why they want to lean on Gattis, whose 16.32 at-bats-per-home run ratio ranks second among all Major League catchers. But concerns about Gattis' defensive limitations and durability have at least cracked the door of opportunity for Bethancourt, whose rocket arm provides him a chance to be a special defensive talent.
However, one thing is clear: Christian Bethancourt will be on the team in 2015. As DOB points out in this article, the Braves are extremely high on C-Beth after his performances at the Major League level this season. One Brave who is impressed with Bethancourt is Freddie Freeman, who made this observation after Bethancourt brought in a huge RBI in the Braves' lone victory over the Nationals this past week:
Another player who may not be a Brave too much longer (at least past 2015) is Jason Heyward, who is having one of the best seasons of his career mostly due to an incredible defensive season. While the old saying goes that "Defense wins championships," they don't normally get you individual awards in baseball (outside of the Golden/Platinum Gloves), and defense alone will not give Heyward the MVP trophy this season. However, he at least deserves consideration, which is what fangraphs gives to him in this article breaking down the "other" NL MVP candidates.
The only reason why the Braves are still mathematically in the race is because none of the two other teams in the race have done much to distance themselves, and last night was a prime example of this as the Pirates dropped a game against the Cubs. Chicago had lost 7 straight going into that game, and after Friday night, it appeared that the Pirates were doing what Postseason teams are supposed to do in a playoff race: beat up on bad teams. The Braves didn't catch that memo, and at least for a night, it appears that the Pirates missed the memo as well.
Meanwhile, it appears that the Brewers also missed the memo to beat up on weaker teams, as they also dropped what should have been a victory against an extremely shorthanded Cincinnati Reds team. The Brewers went into the game already knowing that the Braves had lost and an eventual Pirates loss was on the way. Milwaukee was also facing a rookie pitcher who has had himself a rough season. All signs pointed to a Brewers victory, but if there's anything that we've learned from this Wild Card race, it's that A) The Winner of the NL Wild Card Game probably won't last long in October and B) Absolutely nothing can be taken for granted when it comes to the Braves, Pirates, and Brewers when it comes to the battle for that final Wild Card spot.