Wiedmer: Braves' may not need Peavy for a postseason run

Wiedmer: Braves' may not need Peavy for a postseason run

July 29th, 2013 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

Atlanta Braves logo

Atlanta Braves logo

Repeat after me: The Atlanta Braves don't need pitcher Jake Peavy. No way. No how. Not now.

Not after sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals out of Turner Field following Sunday night's 5-2 win. Not after holding the Redbirds' vaunted offense to a single run in the first two games of the series, the first time anyone's held St. Looie to a single run over two games all season.

Especially not after accomplishing all of this following the loss of pitcher Tim Hudson for the rest of the season with a broken ankle prior to the St. Louis series.

Yes, the Braves have flaws. So they may yet make a move before Wednesday's 4 p.m. trade deadline. But those shortcomings are largely offensive in nature. Peavy's a pitcher with a $14.5 million contract for next year, and he's been hurt about as much as he's been healthy the past five seasons.

Certainly he was once as good as anyone in the National League, leading NL starters in wins (19), strikeouts (240) and ERA (2.54) in 2007.

That was good enough for the Braves to launch into lengthy trade talks with the San Diego Padres for Peavy at the close of the 2008 season.

But the Alabama native is now 32. He could certainly have at least three or more fine seasons, and his current 8-4 record with the Chicago White Sox would suggest as much.

However, he also owns a 4.28 ERA, which would rank fifth among the current Braves starters. And that's before Brandon Beachy -- arguably Atlanta's best pitcher a year ago before he was injured -- is expected to return to the mound this week, possibly as early as tonight against Colorado.

Given all that, ESPN's Buster Olney noted during Sunday night's Braves-Cards telecast that, "I don't think [Atlanta] is going to spend big to get a starting pitcher."

That's not to say the Braves' arms are bullet proof. Especially given that Kris Medlen is the only Atlanta starter with a playoff start and he lost that game to St. Louis last October.

But given Julio Teheran's brilliant shutout performance on Saturday -- "I think that's the best game I've ever pitched," he said afterward -- Mike Minor's similarly glittering effort in Friday's 4-1 win and a solid outing by Medlen on Sunday, there is great cause for optimism on the mound.

And while the offense still often frustrates -- "An all or nothing offense," ESPN's Orel Hershiser rightly labeled it -- much breaks right for the Braves down the stretch.

For starters, 28 of their final 47 games are at home. To underscore the importance of that, Atlanta is the only division leader in either league with a losing road record.

Conversely, the Braves' 33-15 home record heading into Sunday night's game against the Cards was the best in baseball.

Beyond that, of Atlanta's final 16 series -- beginning with the start of tonight's four-game set against the Rockies -- only two come against teams who currently sport winning records.

Considering all that, it's almost impossible to imagine a scenario by which the Braves won't reach the postseason.

All of which brings us to a possible Atlanta-St. Louis playoff series come October.

It would be a stretch to call the Braves and Cards rivals. Yet two of the most bitter October moments in Atlanta's history involve the Redbirds. The first came in the 1982 when the Braves led the Cards 1-0 in the opening game of the best-of-five NLCS, Phil Niekro on the mound and three outs from victory when the game ended up being washed out by rain.

Given a reprieve, St. Louis swept the series.

Then came last year, when a controversial infield fly ruling ultimately doomed Atlanta in a one-game wildcard playoff against St. Louis. The Cards ultimately fell to the eventual world champion San Francisco Giants in the NLCS. In between those two crushing defeats, the Braves did break the Redbirds' hearts in the 1996 NLCS, coming from a 3-1 hole to reach their second straight World Series.

So maybe Atlanta owes the Cardinals more than a mid-summer sweep on friendly soil.

But it's a start. Perhaps the most promising start for a fine finish against the rest of the National League since the dawn of the new millennium.

Email Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.