Both the Atlanta Braves and the Oakland Athletics find themselves in crucial playoff races in their respective divisions. But after their weekend series, both teams find themselves going opposite ways as we get closer to the playoffs. After the Braves swept the A’s in three straight games, Atlanta inches closer to the Nationals for the NL East lead, while Oakland is now tied up with the Angles for the top spot in the AL West.
While the Braves don’t necessarily turn many heads on offense (they rank in the bottom half of the league in runs, batting average, OBP, and slugging percentage), their pitching is what has been getting things done all year long. They are sixth in the league with a 3.39 ERA and first in quality starts with 86. This weekend, it was a bit of firepower from both sides that allowed them to sweep Oakland.
On Friday night, the Braves hit two homeruns in the second and a three-run shot in the third to take a big 5-0 lead after just three innings. Alex Wood would eventually give up a two run shot to Nate Freeman in the fourth, but that was his only blemish on the evening. For the A’s on Friday, Jason Hamel was yanked after letting up five runs in just three innings, as he earned his second loss in a row.
Things didn’t get much easier for the visiting team on Saturday, as the A’s would drop what would be their fourth game in a row. It was the same song and dance as the Braves rushed out to an early lead and scored twice in the first inning and once again in the fourth. When Oakland’s John Jaso hit a home-run in the 8th, it looked like we could be in for a interesting 9th; but Craig Kimbrel came in to close things down and lock up his 36th save on the season for Atlanta.
And then there was Sunday night. While the number on the calendar may have changed, the score was again 4-3 and the A’s suffered their fifth loss in a row. This time, Nate Freiman would homer in the first to put the A’s on the board early, but the Braves followed it up with home runs of their own in the second and fourth to take a 3-1 lead. When Freiman homered again in the seventh to pull it within one, Chris Johnson answered back in the bottom of the inning to further extend the lead.
Jon Lester got the loss for the A’s on Sunday, which was his first since being traded to Oakland from Boston. Mike Minor was the winning pitcher for the Braves, as he notched just his fifth win on the season.
Despite their recent struggles, the A’s still have a 98.8% chance of making the playoffs and also sit atop the league with both the Tigers and Dodgers at 9/2 odds to win the World Series this season. However, their downward spiral as of late certainly has to lead to some concerns for fans out west. As for the Braves, they have just a 32.8% chance of making the playoffs and 20/1 odds to win the World Series. That being said, they are 6-4 in their last ten and seem to really be kicking things into high gear.
Both of these teams will play their last games on September 28th, so be sure to check back with sportspicks.com as the playoff race continues to heat up in the final weeks of the season.