Braves-Bucs Preview

IT’S A “LOSER LEAVES THE PENNANT RACE” BATTLE BETWEEM BRAVES AND BUCS!

Just when it looked like the Atlanta Braves were down for the count and out of the National League playoff picture, they up and swept the powerful Oakland A’s! That still only lifted them to four games over .500 entering their current series with the Pittsburgh Pirates. And, they didn’t pick up any ground over the weekend on NL East leading Washington because the Nats were busy sweeping the Bucs.

From the Pittsburgh’s perspective, THEY’RE now the team that may be down and out because of that lost weekend in the nation’s capital. They went from knocking on the door of first place Milwaukee to reeling out of the brackets

Atlanta and Pittsburgh both entered this series (which began Monday Night) with records of 64-60…both trailing St. Louis and San Francisco in the Wildcard race. It’s still only mid-August, but this could turn out to be an “elimination” matchup for whoever loses the series. And, if either the Braves or Pirates get swept, that would knock the free-faller back to one game over .500 with only 35 games left on the calendar.

WILDCARD STANDINGS AFTER THE WEEKEND
St. Louis: 66-57
San Francisco: 65-58
Pittsburgh 64-60: (1.5 games behind SF for the last spot)
Atlanta 64-60: (same)
Miami 62-62: (3.5 games behind SF, where did they come from?!)

Of course, the winner of Braves/Bucs still has some work to do unless one of St. Louis or San Francisco slides back toward the .500 mark. That’s possible given the inconsistency of San Francisco. Could a team barely over .500 make the playoffs this year?!

The pennant races are narrowing as teams fall by the wayside (good bye Cincinnati!). Let’s see which fringe contender is in the most trouble Tuesday Night…

OFFENSE
Atlanta: 3.73 runs per game, .309 on-base, .371 slugging
Pittsburgh: 4.22 runs per game, .331 on-base, .393 slugging

We’ve mentioned a few times that Pittsburgh is much better on offense than the mainstream media and many handicappers seem to realize. Even last week we heard somebody talking about the bad Pittsburgh offense. Entering the new week, Pittsburgh had the best park-adjusted offense in the whole National League! Look at how far ahead of Atlanta they are across the board….and the Bucs get no favors from their home ballpark. Big edge for the Bucs with the bats.

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TUESDAY’S PITCHERS
Aaron Harang: 3.51 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 6.7 K-Rate
Francisco Liriano: 3.78 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 9.7 K-Rate

We’re not sure how he’s doing it with that high WHIP. But, Harang has thrown quality starts in eight of his last 10 outings. He’s still vulnerable against good offenses, as he showed the last time out against the Dodgers. But, he’s been in the rotation all season despite a bleak outlook entering 2014. This franchise is STILL working wonders with pitchers. What’s been true for decades in Atlanta has recently become true for Pittsburgh. They put a good defense behind their pitchers, get them some runs, and suddenly middling guys elsewhere start winning for the Pirates. Liriano has the better WHIP and K-RATE, which generally means an edge in a pitching matchup. Can Harang keep getting out of trouble?

JIM HURLEY has this game on his Tuesday Night radar. But, he won’t force a selection if it’s not there. He’s also looking at Toronto/Milwaukee, LA Angels/Boston, Detroit/Tampa Bay, and a few others for potentially serious play. You can purchase the final word for Tuesday right here at the website with your credit card any time during the afternoon. If you have any questions about longterm service, call us in the office during normal business hours this week at 1-800-323-4453. Take care of business NOW because the dress rehearsal games in the NFL Playoffs begin THURSDAY!

One more day of baseball before that…here’s this week’s NOTEBOOK schedule…

Wednesday: MLB TV Preview: LA Angels at Boston
Thursday: NFL TV Preview: Pittsburgh at Philadelphia on NFL Network
Friday: NFL TV Preview: Oakland at Green Bay on CBS
Saturday: NFL TV Preview: New Orleans at Indianapolis on CBS
Sunday: NFL TV Preview: San Diego at San Francisco on CBS

So…the dress rehearsals start Thursday, and then college football starts a week from Thursday. The summer has flown by…but the rocket ride is just beginning! Don’t you dare miss a single winner from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK®!

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