Yet each time it seems they’re moving forward, the rug is swept out from beneath them. For these Braves, chasing .500 is their version of Charlie Brown trying to kick the football.
“I wish we could ‘hope’ our way to wins; it doesn’t work that way,” manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s not that easy to go out and say, ‘We have to win.’ Yeah, we do. But there are a lot of different variables that stand in your way a lot of times.”
The long-anticipated run might well happen. It could even happen this week, sending the Braves into the break feeling good. But every time one thinks it’s coming, it’s derailed.
A few days after the Braves defeated Jacob deGrom, they struggled with Chase De Jong. One day after a thrilling comeback against Miami, they were embarrassed by the Pirates. That’s how you end up at 41-43.
“I can’t explain any of that stuff,” Snitker said. “That’s the beauty of baseball. That’s what keeps us coming back. There are no guarantees, absolutes. Anything can happen on any night.”
Despite the maddening inconsistency - there’s another description synonymous with this club - the Braves are thankful that no team has separated itself from the rest of the painfully average National League East. That has bought the Braves time they wouldn’t have in every other division, where the team(s) at or near pole position are the cream of the crop.
Not in the NL East, where the Mets lead the division at 44-37, four games better than Washington and 4-1/2 ahead of the Braves. Every other division leader has at least 49 wins. The other division leaders in the NL, Milwaukee (51-35) and San Francisco (53-31), are comfortably outpacing the Mets. The NL West has three teams that would lead the East.
The standings, and the unshakable feeling that these Braves haven’t revealed their best selves, are why many have kept faith, or rather, hope -- a belief that the team will suddenly hit its stride and climb back into the postseason chase.
With the second half to go, it’s not an outlandish belief. But with each passing week yielding the same results, the Braves are losing time. There are plenty of games remaining, but what does it matter if nothing changes? Eventually, time runs out. The Braves have five games left before the All-Star break and begin a July gauntlet after that. It will be fascinating to see how it goes - and if they finally buck their trends.