Driving to Atlanta Thursday afternoon for the final four home games of the season, my mind went back to the disappointing ending to the 2011 season. I was at Turner Field for the last two games expecting to be part of another Braves’ celebration. Even though the Braves had been losing, they needed just one win to clinch a spot in the playoffs. Everyone knows they lost their final two games to the Philadelphia Phillies sending the St. Louis Cardinals to the playoffs (and eventually to a World Series Championship). It was a bitter loss for a team that had looked like a shoo-in at the start of the final month.
The 2012 Braves have already clinched a spot in the playoffs. Although they could still win the National League’s East Division, they will likely play the one-game Wild Card playoff against – who else – the St. Louis Cardinals. Atlanta has already clinched home field advantage for the Oct. 5th game.
As I moved about in the Braves’ dugout during batting practice, the tension and anxiety of last September had been replaced with controlled confidence. Players are relaxed and having fun.
And why not?
The team is 25 games over .500. with a record of 90-65.
is just the second Brave to post back-to-back 40 save seasons. John Smoltz did it three straight seasons. Kimbrel is also close to accomplishing two pitching feats that have never been done by a modern Major League pitcher. No pitcher with at least 60 innings pitched has ever averaged more than 16 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. Kimbrel entered Thursday night’s game at 16.56 over 60.1 innings pitched. Kimbrel owns a .126 opponents batting average going into Thursday’s game, which could break the mark of .133 set by Dodgers’ Eric Gagne in 2003.
Jason Heyward stole his 20th base in Wednesday night’s game and became just the ninth Atlanta player to reach 20 home runs and 20 steals in the same season. Andruw Jones was the last Brave to do it (36/21 in 2000).
Chipper Jones has been having the year that solidifies his future selection into the Major League Hall of Fame. His hit Tuesday night tied Roberto Alomar for fifth place on the all-time switch-hitter list and 57th place on the all-time hits list.
The Braves have won 22 consecutive games that Kris Medlen has started. Medlen is tied with the Yankees Whitey Ford (1950-53) and the NY Giants Carl Hubbell (1936-37). Medlen is the announced starting pitcher in the Oct. 5th Wild Card Playoff game.
, who went 2-for-4 Wednesday leads the National League in multi-hit games with 59. One more multi-hit game and he becomes the 10th player in franchise history to accomplish 60 multi-hit games in a season. The last to do it was Terry Pendleton in 1992 (62).
Scheduled pitchers for final four games:
Thursday - Tommy Hanson (12-9)
Friday - Tim Hudson (16-6)
Saturday - Mike Minor (10-10)
Sunday - Kris Medlen (9-1)
Terry Pendleton is the Braves first-base coach.
- Photo2 by Tim Evearitt