Jun 25, 2013, 5:32 PM EDT
|Photo by USA Today|
By Steve Roney
Remember the success, the optimism, and the results produced by the NL East the past few years? Last season, two playoff teams, with a third (New York) finishing at .500. The year before, in 2011, two winning teams, and two within sniffing distance of .500. 2010 was the same, with the fourth-place Mets finishing with a winning percentage of .488.
Now, however, it's the Braves (owners of the sixth-best record in baseball), and then a relatively huge gap — for this early in the season, anyway — and then everybody else. Only the Nationals, at 37-38, are close. Contrast that with the AL East, where any of the five teams would be in at least second place were they located in the NL East, as all boast winning records.
Atlanta Braves (44-33)
The only divisional team with it's head above water, Atlanta has held the course after a hot start, with a 12-11 record for the month of June so far. Obviously there is half a season left, but unless Washington pulls itself together and starts scoring some runs, the Braves likely won't need to do much better than they have been. If not the Nats, who's going to catch them, the Phillies? I like Atlanta's odds.
As with seemingly every team, the injury bug is complicating things somewhat, as top slugger Evan Gattis is still on the DL. Brandon Beachy, who was targeting a return from Tommy John last week, is still on the mend as well; for most teams this would be very, very discouraging news, but Atlanta's pitching staff has been very good one through five — only Tim Hudson (4.10) has an ERA above 3.75. Beachy will be an important piece, for sure, but right now they can afford to take their time with him.
Player of the Week: Chris Johnson, 3B: 2 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI, .292 AVG
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