The Braves have raised their hands for the assignment.
In their catcher’s eyes, the Braves clearly have not played to their capabilities, yet they have done enough to remain a close second in the East. “That’s how you win (a division), not playing your best you still got to win ballgames,” Brian McCann said. “We’ve been able to do that. Just gotta keep playing the way we’re playing and get on a run.”
“It’s a long season,” he said. “You have your ups and downs. When you start hitting on all cylinders you’re tough to beat.”
He seems to believe that day is coming. The question that will dog the Braves is whether they have the pitching to win on a sustained basis. Can they stack up enough good starts to go on a winning bender? Do they have the arms on the back end that can be trusted? On that rickety foundation do their hopes rest.
At least they have the impetuousness of youth on their side. The same kind of energy that propelled them to the top of the division a year ago exists today.
It was Wednesday, when Austin Riley was making his splashy debut, that it struck manager Brian Snitker again just how callow his team is. “I was looking down that line of guys standing for the national anthem, and I went, ‘Man, there’s some young, talented guys out there,’” he said.
And it’s not just in the lineup where that youth is going to matter. To hear Julio Teheran speak Thursday night after getting a win against St. Louis, the youth on the pitching staff has given him a caffeine jolt. Opposite of how seniority works, a 21-year-old starting in front of him in the rotation is showing him the way.
“Pitching behind (Mike) Soroka has been amazing,” Teheran said. “Kind of fun to see him do his thing and compete and put up the great effort, so when I get the ball, I want to do the same thing. That’s what it has been all about.”
For as erratic as youth can be, if Soroka and Max Fried can actually establish themselves as reliable and the likes of Teheran and Kevin Gausman can stand their ground, the Braves can get back atop the NL East and perhaps even stay there.
That may not take as much as originally thought.