Braves Need Early Win Streak To Save Teixeira

July 16, 2008 by Tom Ferda 

Published in Baseball Digest July 16, 2008

Originally from Detroit, Tom is a Los Angeles based sportswriter. His material has been published in several newspapers including The New York Daily News, Detroit Free Press and Washington Times. Magazines that have published his features include Men’s Book, The Hockey News (Canada), USA Hockey Mag, 360 Hawks and 360 Thrashers. For clippings or inquiries contact him at tom@tomferda.com

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Atlanta Need Early Win Streak to Save Teixeira

Written by TOM FERDA

ATLANTA- Now that we’ve taken a few days to come down from the adrenaline rush furnished by the longest game in All-Star history that included appearances from Atlanta Braves Chipper Jones and Brian McCann, it’s time to take a look at the importance of a strong Braves start to begin the second half.

As the Braves come out rested after the break, two issues seem to be of interest. One, closing the gap on the NL East leaders and two, GM Frank Wren seems to need a reason to keep clean-up hitter Mark Teixeira past the July 31 trade deadline. These issues seem to go hand-in-hand. In a recent interview, when asked about the possibility of trading the Georgia Tech grad, Wren responded, “A lot depends on how our club is performing.”

Teixeira said in an earlier interview that he is taking it one game at a time and knows it’s just part of the business. Maybe so, but this part of the business may be taking a toll on the player. After hitting .287 with nine HR’s and a slugging percentage of .617 for a productive month of June, his numbers have dropped considerably in July. Through 13 games this month, his average was .250 and he had one HR and a slugging percentage of .438.

After many picked the Braves to be the front runners in the NL East, they experienced an underachieving first half going 45-50 which included a dismal 5-22 record in one-run games. The Braves began the second half 6.5 games behind the division leading Philadelphia Phillies and NY Mets who shared the top spot. But with the upcoming schedule for all these teams, things could change drastically.

The first three series after the All-Star break offers an incredible opportunity for the Braves to get right back into the race. They opened against the last place Washington Nationals at Turner Field on July 18. The Braves pitchers own the second best ERA in the NL going up against the Nationals who have one of the softest line-ups in MLB. The Nats are last in the majors with a team batting average of .239 and their lackluster roster does not have a single player with double digits in HRs.

This appears to be a dream second-half opening series for Atlanta who is expected to win the series on their home field.

Tim Hudson (10-7) did come out and get the win in the first game of that series, a one-run 7-6 victory, but Jair Jurrjens (9-5) struggled in game two, giving up five earned runs and taking the loss, 8-2.

With the game two loss, the Braves squandered an opportunity to move closer to the Phillies who lost to the Marlins that same night. But Atlanta can still salvage the Washington series with a win in game three on Sunday before they go on the road.

While the Braves host the Nats, the Phillies are in hot, humid Florida against the Marlins before going to New York for a three game series against the Mets. Those two match-ups are sure to restructure the top three spots in the NL East.

After this weekend’s Nats series, the Braves visit the Marlins for three games and then head north to play the Phillies in what could be the most important series of their season. In this cluster of division rival games, something has got to give.

With the top three teams in the NL East going head-to-head all week, every Braves victory would gain a full game on one of those rivals, moving them closer to a playoff position and right back in the race. If they are able to close the gap prior to next weekend’s Philly series, their performance in the City of Brotherly Love could define their season. After being swept at home by the Phillies earlier in the year, returning the favor would put the Braves in contention and probably keep Teixeira in Atlanta.

It’s no secret that Teixeira has become a hot topic of trade rumors throughout the league. It’s pretty obvious the Braves need to step it up a notch and find a way to win to get back in it by the end of next weekend’s Phillies series or they will likely be playing the rest of the season without Teixeira.

It’s crunch time for the Braves.

If they respond and come out of the gate with a flurry, the NL East may suddenly find itself in a tight four way race for first, The Fat Lady may not be singing for quite some time and the Jimi Hendrix hit, “All Along The Watchtower” will continue to fill the air at Turner Field after July 31 when Teixeira steps to the plate.

Contact Tom via email: tom@tomferda.com