Bradley’s Buzz: Rating October’s NL threats to the Braves

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

History teaches that the regular season isn’t always, or even often, a predictor of what will happen beyond the 162nd game. The Braves might roll through October/November the way they tore through June. They also might not. There’s your disclaimer, not that you needed one.

The Braves are on pace to win 109 games. The NL’s second-best team – the Marlins, believe it or not – is on track to win 93. That’s a massive gap. Come Oct. 3, there’ll be no gap. Come Oct. 3, all playoff qualifiers are 0-0. If the mighty Braves lose three of their first five October games, they’ll sack up the bats and go home.

That mightn’t seem fair, but nobody around here complained when the 2021 Braves beat the 95-win Brewers, the 106-win Dodgers and the 95-win Astros to become World Series champs. October can be cruel, except when it’s blissful.

Today’s exercise is to scan the NL field. Spoiler alert: Any team that reaches the postseason is a threat, though some are greater than others. Going by record …

San Diego: If you can pitch, you tend to win. Despite yielding the second-fewest runs among NL clubs, the Padres are six games out of the last wild card spot. They resume play with 10 road games, the first four in Philadelphia. Lose seven of 10 and they’ll be deadline sellers. Threat level: a tough out if they get in, but they probably won’t.

Milwaukee: Usually heavy on pitching, the Brewers were so strapped for arms they signed Julio Teheran, who not long ago was working for an independent team on Staten Island. They have the NL’s eighth-best record, but they’re favored to win the Central. They resume with seven games in Cincinnati and Philly. Threat level: middling.

Philadelphia: From 25-32 on June 2, the Phillies have climbed within 3-1/2 games of Miami in the East and a half-game back of the final wild card. They have a slew of big names – Bryce Harper, Zack Wheeler, Trea Turner, Aaron Nola – who, for various reasons, haven’t done much. Threat level: a tough out if they get in, which they probably will.

San Francisco: Here’s your mystery guest. Try naming four regulars, and I’ll spot you Brandon Crawford and Mike Yastrzemski. The Giants had two All-Stars – closer Camilo Doval and starter Alex Cobb, who’s 35. They won’t win the West, but they could snag a wild card. Threat level: sub-middling unless they land Shohei Ohtani.

Cincinnati: Elly De La Cruz is great. This team is not. The Reds have yielded the fourth-most runs among big-league clubs. Some of that is due to Great American Ball Park, though only some. The Central winner figures to be the No. 3 seed, which means the Braves wouldn’t see Cincy in a best-of-five. Threat level: a puncher’s chance.

Arizona: If you’re good enough, you’re old enough. Brian Snitker used that line to describe Ronald Acuña Jr. It applies to outfielder Corbin Carroll, who’s 22 and an All-Star. He’s the reason the Diamondbacks hit the break in a virtual tie with the Dodgers. Threat level: ahead-of-schedule teams can be dangerous.

Los Angeles: MLB’s deepest team has gotten top-heavy. There’s Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts. There’s Clayton Kershaw. That’s about it. For once, the Dodgers don’t have enough pitching. But Ohtani pitches, does he not? Threat level: check back in two weeks.

Miami: Here’s your overachiever. The Marlins are 53-39 while being outscored by five runs. They haven’t played Tampa Bay, Texas, Houston or L.A. They’ll see them all over the next month. They have only three games remaining with the Braves, against whom they’re 1-9. Threat level: check back in a month.

The above is part of a regular exercise available to all who register on for our free Sports Daily newsletter. The full Buzz, which includes extras like a weekly poll and pithy quotes, arrives via email around 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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