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Braves making nowhere plans for nobody
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Forsyth County News
Another lost weekend for the Nowhere Men.

No surprise there.

The Braves don’t like weekends. They haven’t won on a Saturday since May 23. They’ve completed a Saturday-Sunday sweep exactly three times all season. Yet, their weekend record stands at a vibrant 13-13, which exceeds their mediocre first-half season record of 39-42.

They’re simply a second-rate bunch. Give them their average, ordinary, commonplace grade of C for the first half, and move on. Best not to dwell on this group. They’re going nowhere, man.

They’ve spent half the season proving themselves to be a run-of-the-mill ballclub. It’s hard to imagine anything disproving their first half exhibition.

Consider that initial observation. Though it strikes us as a given that the Braves are pitiful on the weekends, the fact remains that their weekends are actually better than the week.

That’s only one example of how perception and reality have diverged with respect to this edition of the Braves.

All season, we’ve been led to believe that this team is a bona fide contender for a playoff berth. A challenger for the division title.

The reality is that as of the last weekend in June, the Braves’ record equaled that produced by those perennial losers, the Pirates and Orioles.

And no one in their right mind considers them anything but also rans.

The Pirates are on their way to a Major League record 17th straight losing season. They haven’t seen .500 since Sid slid home. They’re currently tied for the record of 16 straight losing seasons with the ‘33-’48 Phillies. You know, the Phillies: the first professional team to lose 10,000 games.

The Orioles, once the flagship franchise of the American League, have been reduced to laughing stock status in the AL East. From ‘68 through ‘86, they never had a losing season. Since ‘97, they haven’t had a winning one.

This is who the Braves are competing against. Not the Phillies or Marlins for the division title. Not the Giants, Brewers, or Rockies for the wild card.

Yes, that nice little five-game spurt last week got everyone excited. A win over the Red Sox. A sweep of the Phillies. Only two games out of first. The perception? Hey, the Braves are right in this thing.

The reality? The Braves usually take one of three from the Red Sox, and the one came Sunday after losing the first two. Then the Braves caught the Phillies at the end of a dreadful stretch, and a dreadful road trip. Luck of the draw.

The Braves were bound to win five in a row at some point, just to offset the five in a row they lost in April. That’s how they do it. They’re a team of Even Stevens.

They went 10-11 in April, and 15-14 in May. They went 11-l5 in June, but started July with three wins.

Then came the last two games in Washington. Ah, the Nationals. What a ballclub. The only team they’re competing with is the ‘62 Mets. They’re on pace to amass all of 49 wins, which means they’d rack up 113 losses.

But they beat the Braves two of three, including the crushing blow administered on Saturday. The Braves managed to give Tommy Hanson a nice “welcome to our world” by turning a 3-1 win into a 5-3 loss before you could summon a fourth reliever in the eighth inning.

Typically, after the devastating loss, the Braves mounted no challenge on Sunday. Unusually incisive were the words of elder statesman Chipper Jones, who noted that Saturday’s game still hurt, and that it had killed the Braves momentum.

That’s because this team has very little margin for error.

When this team hits close to .400 for the week, it can win five in a row. Otherwise, you’ve got a team with no power standing around waiting for a three-run homer. Any way you add it, 65 homers and 29 stolen bases equals a pitiful offense.

Here’s the dichotomy: the Braves rank sixth in the National League in batting average, but stand 11th in runs scored.

Here’s more: the Braves’ starters rank third in the league in earned run average, yet Hanson alone has a winning record. The worst starter has been the staff’s alleged ace, Derek Lowe.

You’d have thought that Tuesday’s 5-4, 10-inning win over the Phillies, when the Braves came from behind on three different occasions, would be the win that really kick-started the team.

And it did. Until the weekend.

Just like the June 2 win over the Cubs, when the Braves trailed 5-0 into the eighth inning and won in the 12th. That momentum lasted all of 24 hours.

It’s time for perception and reality to converge. This team’s going nowhere.

When not practicing his avocation, Denton Ashway practices his vocation with the law firm of Ashway and Haldi in Cumming.