The Braves were 42-42 and four games out of first in the National League East on July 7. They were playing bottom-dwellers Milwaukee and Colorado in the final five games before the All-Star break and it was entirely possible they’d start the second half above .500 and a game or two out of first.
Then Jason Grilli tore his Achilles tendon in Colorado on July 11.
Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe became Mets on July 26.
Jim Johnson, Alex Wood and Luis Avilan became Dodgers on July 30.
Then the suddenly rebuilding Braves were 48-60, the deepest below .500 they’d been since ending 2008 at 72-80.
But playoffs remain Jonny Gomes’ goal. Rebuild or not.
“I don’t know how to take a ‘rebuilding’ at-bat,” Gomes said. “… The playoffs should be in the back of your mind unless there’s an ‘x’ by your name and there’s not. Are the odds against us? Absolutely. Is this a results-driven industry? Absolutely. Do we have the firepower that other teams have in our division or in baseball? Probably not. But there’s only one way to play this game.”
The Braves entered play Thursday 10 games behind division-leading New York and 11 1/2 games behind the Giants for the second wild card berth.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said the Braves can and should make a playoff push and rebuild simultaneously, especially for a fledgling starting rotation.
“I think it’s important to do both,” Gonzalez said. “The importance of winning, the importance of staying out there even though you’re down. It’s not OK to go, ‘OK, I pitched six innings and I only gave up three runs. Quality start.’ That’s not what we’re shooting for here. We’re shooting for guys that are pitching seven innings and eight innings and giving up three runs. And maybe not getting the win, but staying out there a couple extra innings. Going through the lineup a third time or fourth time as a young kid, I think that’s important.”
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