The hits just keep on coming for the Atlanta Braves — that's both literally and figuratively speaking. Sitting atop the National League East Division, the two-time reigning champs will be limping to the finish line at this rate. Thankfully, the season is only 60 games this year. Otherwise, I'm not sure who would be left to play for the Braves heading into the postseason.
Just when I thought things couldn't get any tougher from an injury standpoint — gone for the year is ace pitcher Mike Soroka to a torn Achilles tendon; star acquisition Cole Hamels had not pitched for most of the season with tendonitis; pitcher Tommy Milone, who was acquired in a deadline trade with the Baltimore Orioles, is sidelined with elbow inflammation; second baseman was out for more than a month because of a wrist injury; star pitcher and Cy Young candidate Max Fried had to be placed on the injured list with muscle spasm in his lumbar spine — leadoff man and young superstar Ronald Acuna Jr. had to leave Friday's game after fouling a pitch off his leg.
It's like at this rate, what else could go wrong and who else is liable to get injured? Someone please put a bubble around Freddie Freeman, team leader at first base and one of the leading contenders for Most Valuable Player; and Marcell Ozuna, the team's most consistent hitter all season.
While injuries are part of sports and puts the onus on the front office to build depth, no team can continue to withstand one body blow after another to your most impactful players.
It's almost a miracle the Braves have stayed afloat for this long or maybe it speaks to ineptitude of the National League East this year. Since teams are relegated to play teams within their division or in their geographic regions, the Braves are playing mostly the Washington Nationals, Florida Marlins, New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies this year. Entering this past weekend, the Phillies and Marlins had 20 losses, one behind the Braves, but Atlanta had played three more games than the Phillies.
Philadelphia's recent surge up the standings has put pressure on Atlanta and, ultimately, they may overtake the Braves. A lot will depend on the Braves' health over the final few weeks.
Have Acuna and Albies regained their form as the dynamic duo atop the lineup? Has Fried regained his magic and will he continue to carry the starting rotation on his ailing back? Can Hamels be a difference maker with just a handful of starts?
There's a lot of question marks for a postseason contender. But in a shortened season, we should probably expect more questions than answers heading into the playoffs.
—Clint Thompson is a special contributor to The Union-Recorder.