|Photo by USA Today
By Steve Roney
The Braves have led the division throughout the season, and have enjoyed the biggest division lead in the majors for most of that time — and now, that lead is twice as large as it has ever been. Only the Nationals, at 54-58, have even the faintest hope of challenging for a playoff spot behind Atlanta.
Atlanta Braves (68-45)
The Braves are blowing everyone out of the water right now, riding the majors' longest current winning streak (11 games) to a silly 13.5-game lead over the second-place Nationals. It's their longest streak of the season, improving their record to baseball's second-best — just percentage points behind the Pittsburgh Pirates. If the season were a baseball game, Luis Avilan and Craig Kimbrel would be warming in the pen, preparing to slam the door on the rest of the division.
The trends in the lineup remain the same, as Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman, and Chris Johnson continue to bring the wood; early-season feel-good story Evan Gattis has slipped more than a bit, as his 15 home runs are nice, but his on-base percentage has fallen to .299. The loss of Tim Hudson for the remainder of the season hurts a ton, but is not the devastating blow that it would be to most teams, as it almost perfectly coincided with Brandon Beachy's return. Though Beachy has been shaky in his first two post-Tommy John starts, his strikeout rates are right where they need to be, and he should be fine. Atlanta's other alliterative starter, Mike Minor, continues to dazzle, and has been far and away the team's best starter this season.
Player of the Week: McCann, C: 3 R, 3 HR, 9 RBI, .250 AVG
Miami Marlins (43-67)
You would be hard-pressed to find a more toothless lineup than the one fielded by Miami right now (though, in fairness, they did explode fairly out of nowhere a few days ago in a 10-0 victory over Cleveland). Not a single position player, regardless of the number of at-bats — whether they have three or 300 — has an average of .300. The ghost of Placido Polanco leads the regulars with a .257 average, and Giancarlo Stanton — with just 68 games under his belt — leads the team with 13 home runs. Only Justin Ruggiano (12) joins him in double digits, and he hasn't hit one in just over a month.
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