Sorry Nationals fans, but it looks like the Braves aren't going away anytime soon. Just when it seemed like they were on the on the precipice of disaster in mid-June, Atlanta pulled a rabbit out of its hat and won nine straight games to charge back into the division lead. What's even more frustrating for locals is that despite Washington playing their best baseball of late, their efforts have effectively been nullified by Atlanta's recent hot streak.
That being said, it's not like the Braves tore it up against baseball's best. Their win streak came against the Astros, Phillies, Mets and Diamondbacks; three of four teams that are in last place in their respective divisions. But they're doing what must be done to stay in contention by getting good starting pitching and finding timely hitting to scratch out just enough runs to win ballgames. Despite a banged up rotation and a lineup that isn't very deep, Atlanta's shown a resiliency that's to be admired -- even if it's to the detriment of the Nats.
Just because the Marlins couldn't keep up with the Braves, doesn't mean they had a bad week at all. They went 4-3 over their last seven games, including a series win against the Cardinals in St.Louis for the first time since 2003, the last time the franchise won a World Series. But unfortunately for Miami, treading water at this point of the season isn't going to get them anywhere. Miami now sits six games back in the division and its hopes of being a surprise contender continues to fade.
Despite where the Marlins are in the standings, their week was highlighted by the announcement that Giancarlo Stanton would represent the team at the All-Star Game (and very likely the Home Run Derby). The 24-year old outfielder has been the lone constant for them this season, and played a large part in keeping them afloat for the majority of the season's first half. He leads the National League in both home runs and RBI, and would be shoe-in MVP candidate had the Marlins stayed in contention. But regardless if he receives any postseason accolades, he'll at least get his chance to shine in Minneapolis next week.
NEW YORK METS
The Mets, on the other hand, do not have an MVP candidate this season -- or even a clear-cut All-Star -- making difficult to pick who deserves to go to the Midsummer Classic. When it was announced that it would be second baseman Daniel Murphy, even he said he was shocked by the selection. Since every team must have a representative, someone from the Mets was going to make it. That's not to say Murphy hasn't had a fine season; he leads the team in average, hits, and runs. But it's somewhat surprising that someone with better power numbers like Lucas Duda or a bigger name like David Wright didn't make the cut.
As for the rest of the team, they continue to be mired in a battle to stay out of last place, going 3-3 and remaining nine games out. Like we've mentioned in this space before, the focus for New York the rest of the way probably centers around how their young starting pitching develops. They have plenty of pieces to work with in that rotation, including the still-rehabbing Matt Harvey.
New week, same result for the Phillies, who continue to tumble and now have one of the worst records in baseball at 38-51. We could go over their past week -- they went 2-5 and are now eleven games back-- but it's pretty obvious at this point that the only drama left with this Philadelphia ballclub revolves around the July 31st trade deadline. Trade rumors have already started, soit's just a matter of time before a move is made. The question is which big-name veterans will ultimately be dealt and what type of haul general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. will net after this is all said and done.