Just a year ago, the Braves ended August with a victory over the Miami Marlins and a 15 game lead in the National League East. Ah, remember that relaxed, feet-up-on-the-dugout-railing feeling?
The opponent was the same Sunday, but the Braves position was considerable less comfortable. Sort of the difference between flying first class and getting that coach middle seat to Tacoma.
They entered the final day of August trailing Washington in their division by seven games and were a game-and-a-half back of St. Louis for the second/last wildcard playoff spot. And a half-game back of No. 3 contender Pittsburgh.
If nothing else that has created a different sort of creative tension around the clubhouse.
“Obviously the lead we had last year, it was a little different feeling in the clubhouse,” Justin Upton said. “This year we’re fighting; we have to fight for everything we get. I think both sides are fun, when you’re being chased and when you’re doing the chasing. We just got to keep our head up, keep going and see what happens.”
The Braves might prefer holding the big lead now, but, at least September promises to keep them competitively on edge should they advance to the postseason.
“We know we got to grind out games and try to get in but for the most part I think our spirits are up,” third-baseman Chris Johnson said. “I think we’re definitely confident that if we keep playing the way we are, we’ll get in.”
Monday, the start of September, marks the serious beginning of scoreboard-watching season for this team. And there is long list of obstacles to monitor.
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