What a difference a week makes. Seven days ago, the Braves looked like they were in a middle of a midseason tailspin, enduring a tough June stretch that saw them relinquish their division lead to the Nationals. But after winning six out of the last seven games -- the best mark in the NL East over that span -- it's clear that news of Atlanta's demise may have been greatly exaggerated. For a week, they've regained their swagger and are back atop the division, leading the Nats by a half-game entering Tuesday.
What's remarkable about the Braves is that their pitching staff continues to bounce back just when you think they're about to fall apart. Despite injuries and recent ineffectiveness, Atlanta's rotation delivered with six quality starts over the past week, and still lead the majors in that category for the season. The team won't be capable of going on a legitimate run until the offense begins to perform more consistently (they are second to last in the majors in runs scored), but halfway through the season it looks like the Braves are finding ways to stay afloat despite all obstacles.
As the second half of the season begins, it looks like we may finally be seeing the real Marlins. Losers of four out of their last five, they've now fallen 5.5 games back of first place and it's hard to escape the thought that their surprising first half run could be over.
What made the Marlins so tough early in the season was their success at home, as they entered June with the best home mark in the majors. But Miami's lost ten out of their last 13 home games and voila, their hopes of contending this season are suddenly fading. What's even worse is that their losing skid has comes against some struggles teams. Plain and simple, if the Marlins want to be contenders, they have to beat the likes the Pirates, Cubs and Mets in their ballpark. Miami has just ten home games in the month of July, so they're going to have to make hay on the road if they want to climb back into this race.
NEW YORK METS
The Mets continue their descent into the NL East basement, battling with the Phillies for last place. They've now lost five of six games, sit eight games out of first, and find new ways to disappoint their fanbase. Monday night's game against the Braves was about as typical as it gets for the 2014 Metropolitans: They got a strong performance from their starter Zach Wheeler, had just enough offense to hold a two-run lead going into the eighth inning, and -- you guessed it -- promptly relinquished said lead by committing three errors en route to a four-run frame that doomed New York's chances. That, unfortunately for Mets fans, has essentially what their season has been about through the first 81 games.
At this point, the Mets would likely be content just to see their young starters continue to develop.. It may be too late to save the season, but getting a preview of the 2015 starting staff could give the club a nice morale boost in August and September.
Different week, similar story for the Phillies, who've lost five out of their last six games and now sit 8.5 games out of first. At 36-46, Philadelphia is on pace to lose 90 games for the first time since 2000. That wouldn't be acceptable for any team, much less one that has the third highest payroll in all of baseball. And that of course brings us back to the main issue at hand for Philly over the next month. For their front office, the decision to blow up the roster may all come down to the upcoming ten game road trip, as the team will face the Marlins, Pirates and Brewers in a key stretch that will likely determine their fate come the July 31st trade deadline.