N.L. East Stretch Run Outlook And Prediction
August 12, 2012 in Major League Baseball
The N.L. East Division has become a two horse race between the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves. The Nationals have been in control for most of the 2012 season and lead the Braves by 4.5 games with 48 games remaining in the regular season as I type this.
Both teams are playing solid baseball entering the stretch run and will face each other six more times with each team hosting a three game series at home. The Nationals lead the season series 8-4 over the Braves in their head to head meetings.
The way these two teams are running away from the pack reminds me of the 1973 Belmont Stakes when Secretariat and Sham pulled away from the field in an epic duel.
The Braves have an easier schedule the rest of the way and own the second best road record in MLB (34-21). They do have a tough 10 game stretch before the end of August against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington Nationals, and San Fransisco Giants with seven games being on the road.
If they can get through that stretch of games the Braves will play 28 of their final 34 games against teams with a losing record. They have a legitimate chance of winning this division, but they must get through that tough 10 game stretch and then take care of business in the head-to-head games against the Nats.
The Nats on the other hand will play 13 games against teams with winning records over their final 34 games and will be losing pitcher Stephen Strasburg at some point when the team decides to shut him down.
I believe the Nats have enough pitching depth to survive without Strasburg and clinch this division, but it would be nice to have him in the starting rotation as the race heats up over the final month.
The Nats offense has really come alive as the team has gotten healthy and with some young players maturing as big league hitters. When things are clicking it makes them almost unbeatable.
One area of concern has been a shaky bullpen recently, but I don't think it's anything to worry about. All pitching staffs will have some ups and downs throughout the marathon of a 162 game season.
It wouldn't surprise me to see this race come down to the wire before it's all said and done.
N.L. East Division Winner: Washington Nationals
It's not all sour grapes for Braves fans because I see them earning one of the two N.L. Wildcard berths.