by Charlie Miller
While the Atlanta Braves haven’t been losing in quite the same fashion as the Red Sox, there are clear signs that this team is wearing down. Relievers Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters and closer Craig Kimbrel — the strength of the team all season — struggled in September. Not one of the three has ever logged this many innings. And it’s beginning to show. Veteran Chipper Jones, the leader playing in his final games, is doing all he can, although his aching knees seem to have a different agenda. Injuries in the starting rotation have forced the Braves to rely on youngsters Randall Delgado, Julio Teheran and Mike Minor. That trio shows all the signs of being terrific in the future, but in September, they haven’t been able to pitch deep into games, increasing the pressure and workload on the bullpen.
But one advantage the Braves have that the Red Sox do not is that the Cardinals are not hitting on all cylinders either. In the weekend series with Chicago, had the Cubs not shown up as, well, the Cubs, the Redbirds might already be singing the blues. An extra-inning loss on Monday to the worst team in baseball leaves the Cardinals still on the outside looking in.
With a game advantage with two to play, the Braves will limp across the finish line and be the sacrificial team in Milwaukee this weekend.
So there you have it, baseball this weekend: Yankees host the Rangers, Tigers host the Rays. Phillies host the Diamondbacks and Brewers host the Braves. Count on it.
Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie