|Photo by USA Today
By Steve Roney
Yeah, the Braves have widened their division lead, which at 16 games is more than double the next most-substantial margin: LA's 7.5-game lead over Arizona. That just sets up the rest of the division to play a very underrated late-summer role: that of the spoiler. Washington, New York, and Philadelphia can still make things difficult for more than a few wild card hopefuls.
Atlanta Braves (76-48)
That's enough, guys. Ryan Dempster grouping four fastballs around Alex Rodriguez's trunk is one thing — whether or not you agree with plunking batters to send a message, I think it's close to a consensus that if anyone in the major leagues has it coming, it's A-Rod. Bryce Harper, though? The 20-year-old didn't deserve three in his ribs over the course of three games with the Braves. You're 16 games up, Atlanta, a fact that is tearing Harper and his teammates up — hit him once maybe, but shouldn't that be enough?
Despite their league-best record and the 4-1 week they just completed, the Braves are hurting a tad. Second baseman Dan Uggla landed on the DL in order to have LASIK eye surgery; incredibly, he hopes to be back in the lineup not long after becoming eligible. With a .186 average, anything should help. Brian McCann is also a bit banged up, but if any team can absorb the absence of a catcher it's the Braves, who have Evan Gattis and Gerald Laird in the wings.
Player of the Week: Justin Upton, OF: 4 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, .333 AVG, .524 OBP
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