A cynic would note that wins are largely unimportant at this point. Atlanta’s NL East lead is practically insurmountable. It would definitely be great to secure home-field advantage in the NL – the Braves now have a 3-game lead on the West-leading Dodgers, and a 4-game lead on the Central-leading Pirates – but in the end we’re only talking about a one game swing: nice, but not a deal-breaker. Much more important is keeping everyone healthy, happy, and in sync. And while it’s always nice to win – especially against the Marlins, especially on a walk-off – my biggest concern at the end of each game is whether the team’s best players survived intact.
And yet. If getting Jason Heyward back remains the most important x-factor for the Braves’ post-season chances, B.J. Upton returning to form is probably the second. With that in mind, last night’s seemingly unimportant game might turn out to have been rather important after all. B. J. Upton had a monster night: he went 4 for 6, and in the process drove in 3 of the team’s 5 runs, produced 4 of its 11 hits, and crushed the team’s only home run. He also walked it off with a shot into the right-center field gap in the bottom of the 11th. We have seen this before, to be sure. Every now and then the lesser Upton will put his mouth-watering tools to good effect, and everyone suddenly will find themselves nodding and winking and wondering “what if.” But our staying wary does not mean we should lose all hope: it could still happen. B.J. Upton could still get hot. And what if he did?
In other news, Mike Minor looked somewhat pedestrian. His 6-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio was nice, but the 2 home runs he surrendered were not. All in all, Mikey remains the team’s best starter; his 3.22 FIP is easily the lowest among qualified starters, while his 3.2 fWAR is easily the highest. Braves fans, though, are surely hoping his August numbers (4.71 ERA, 4.48 xFIP) are not a harbinger for things to come. They’re going to need him to be an ace in the playoffs.
And in still other news, Chris Johnson just keeps hitting. He tallied 4 more hits, which increases his lead for the National League’s batting title. Those of us who argued his .460 April BABIP was unsustainable are, I suppose, “vindicated” by recent events: he has “only” posted a .392 BABIP since then. But that’s still ridiculous, and the .817 OPS since May 1st is nothing to sneeze at anyway. Not bad for a throw-in.
Today Atlanta goes for the sweep, and their 7th win in a row. I’ll take that. You’ll take that. We’ll all take that, obviously. Just stay healthy, my friends.