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Michael Cunningham: Braves treading water, but I still believe they'll 'get going' soon

Michael Cunningham, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Baseball

It became the unofficial Braves motto soon after they lost to the Dodgers in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. They were 12 Outs Away from going to the World Series. They’d get another shot in 2021 because nearly every important player was back. That refrain grew louder when the Braves re-signed slugger Marcell Ozuna in February.

During spring training, I declared the Braves were the good kind of boring because they had no major holes to fill. Since then they’ve been the bad kind of exciting. Hardly anything goes by design in baseball.

The Braves had a record of .500 or worse after five of their first six games in 2020, then they were above .500 for the rest of the 60-game season. They led the NL East from their 24th game until the end of the season.

After 60 games this year the Braves haven’t had a record better than .500 for a single day. The Braves are 0-5 when playing with an even record. They’ve never led the division.

The Braves were Twelve Outs Away less than eight months ago. Their on-field inconsistencies, and off-field calamities, make it seem much longer. The Braves are treading water, and it’s still tough to tell if they’ll ultimately sink or swim over the final 102 games.

“It hasn’t been an uphill at the start of a roller coaster,” slugger Freddie Freeman said Thursday after the Braves lost 4-3 in 10 innings at the Phillies to drop the series. “We have never gone uphill. It’s always been going around (the tracks) all 60 games we’ve played. I feel like once we get over that .500 hump, we’ll get going here.”

 

I still believe that, too. Every time I think the Braves are going downhill for good, they come back around the bend.

The Braves won two of three games against the mighty Dodgers last weekend at Truist Park. Then they won the opener at Philadelphia on Tuesday. That evened their record for the first time since May 25. Surely the Braves were ready to finally take off.

Instead, Phillies rookie Luke Williams, called up the day before, hit a two-run, walk-off homer in the ninth against closer Will Smith on Wednesday. The Phillies won Thursday afternoon on Jean Segura’s walk-off, two-run hit against Chris Martin, who’d been great since returning from the injured list.

The Braves (29-31) started another skid after clawing their way to .500. They can get back there by winning the three-game series in Miami this weekend. A sweep finally would give them more wins than losses.

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