With just over one month left in the 2018 regular season, and the Braves enjoying an ever-growing cushion at the top of the National League East, Braves Country is abuzz with a term that has been largely insignificant for the last half-decade. Suddenly, the phrase “magic number” is on everyone’s lips.
After a strong offensive showing last night from the Braves, as well as another late-inning Philadelphia collapse (capped with a walk-off TOOTBLAN), the Braves’ magic number is down to 27 as we are set to stroll into September. The division lead now sits at 4 ½ games over the Phillies, a season-high which comes at a really convenient time.
In an effort to bring the magic number a little closer to zero, the Braves will hand the ball to Sean Newcomb to face the Tampa Bay Rays tonight. Newk’s August has been statistically uneven, but the underlying numbers indicate the results have been worse than the actual performance. His ERA for the month sits at 5.48, but his 3.95 FIP and strikeouts / walk rates which are in line with his season figures paint a prettier picture. He will face a Rays offense he neutralized on May 8, allowing two hits in six scoreless frames.
The Rays will counter with Diego Castillo, who fills the opener role. This will be his third start of the season; he went 1⅔ innings in each of the first two times.
Last night’s nine run outburst was a welcome sight after a two week stretch where the Braves offense looked largely punchless. While the Braves’ best hitters have been scuffling recently - especially Freddie Freeman - it is always nice to see the rest of the lineup pick up those who are struggling. To offset Freddie’s 0-for-5, 3 strikeout night, Ozzie Albies and Ender Inciarte combined to get on base nine times last night - neither generated an out all night.
This has been a running theme all year. It seems like every single hitter in the Braves offense has carried the team at some point this season.
The Braves will be doubtlessly be watching the scoreboard tonight - and for the rest of the season - but the easiest way to ensure the magic number shrinks is to take care of business against the Rays.
Game Date/Time: Wednesday, August 29, 7:35 PM ET
Location: SunTrust Park, Atlanta, GA
TV: Fox Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM, WYAY 106.7, Braves Radio Network