Finally, real baseball is back tonight after the All-Star Break. The Braves have 71 games remaining, starting tonight in San Diego.
The Braves were playing such good baseball going into the All-Star break, no one wanted this team to stop their momentum. With a road trip going through San Diego and Milwaukee, the Braves will have no time to fall in a lull. The Washington Nationals are playing just as good, if not better, baseball than the Braves going into the All-Star break. The Braves will want to keep playing good baseball so they can keep the gap healthy between the two division rivals.
These next two series on the road against the Padres and Brewers are extremely important for the last part of the season. The Braves need to set the tone for the rest of the season going forward. The lead in the NL East, over the Nationals, is sitting at 6 games. That’s no runaway, but the lead is big enough for the Braves to start to feel comfortable. The Braves goals have shifted to beating the Dodgers and moving to the World Series. The last 71 games will be the indicator to know if the Braves are real contenders to get past the Dodgers this season.
Dallas Keuchel will be taking the mound in the series opener of the Padres series. Keuchel, who has gotten better with every start, has a chance to show the young pitchers, Max Fried and Mike Soroka, that he can be the leader of this team. Soroka may be the best pitcher for the Braves, but Keuchel can slot into an essential role for this Braves team going forward through the season.
It’s still a long season, and I don’t want to look too far ahead of this season. For the Braves, the goals are still to win the NL East first and foremost. But it’s hard to not start thinking about the playoffs and, inevitably, the Dodgers. The Braves still have a long way to go before they get to that point, however, it’s hard not to think about September and October. It all starts tonight, in San Diego.