The Braves’ Other Magic Number

As the Braves enter the final two weeks of the regular season, the “magic number” stands at 5. Atlanta needs just 5 more wins over its final 13 games to avoid the dubious 100 loss mark, a total that hasn’t been seen in this town since the 1988 club dropped 105 games. It’s been said that the team is playing better baseball of late, and the numbers certainly back that statement up. Since Matt Kemp was added to the lineup on August 2nd, the club is averaging 5.2 runs per game and put together its best overall month winning 13 of 28 games last month.

Photo: AP

Kemp has certainly played a big role in the offensive production, having driven in 21 runs over his last 23 games. Nearly one-third of his homers this season have come in a Braves uniform, and eight of those have either tied the game or given Atlanta the lead. Since being acquired from San Diego at the Trade Deadline, Kemp has played in all 44 games for the Braves, hitting .293 over that span, while his team has posted a 21-23 record.

In addition, Ender Inciarte has been on a tear since the All-Star Break, registering 88 hits, the most in the Majors in the “second half.” He’s just 18 hits shy of tying Terry Pendleton’s record of post All-Star Break hits (106 in 1991) as he enters play Monday with a .355 average since the Mid Summer Classic, which is third highest in baseball. Inciarte has already become the first Braves player in Atlanta history with two hitting streaks of at least 17 games in a single season as he’s hit safely in 57 of his last 62 games overall.

Last but not least, to say Freddie Freeman is white hot right now would be the understatement of the year. 2016 marks Freeman’s first 30 homer season, and his 22 game hit streak is a career-best. But perhaps the most astounding stat Freddie has put up is his on base streak (38 consecutive) which is the longest active streak in the Majors and the longest by a Braves player since Chipper Jones hit safely in 41 straight in 2008. I caught up with Chipper during the previous homestand and he told me if Freeman can find a way to cut down on the strikeouts and get his walk totals close to 100, he should be in the top two or three in the MVP consideration.

The road to 5 won’t be easy as Atlanta embarks on a seven game trip starting tonight in New York with three against the Mets who are fighting for their posteason lives, and four in Miami against a Marlins club that looks like it will find itself on the outside looking in when the Playoffs start in two weeks. After this trip, the Braves head home to close out the final six games at Turner Field with three against the Phillies and the final weekend with Detroit. I do think they find a way to avoid 100, but this week will certainly be a big test.

-Kevin McAlpin
@KevinMcAlpin covers the Braves for the @BravesRadioNet and @680_The_Fan.