The Braves are 2-4 in September, after going 18-11 in August. Their pitching is fine (6th best team ERA in September), but their lineup isn't producing any runs. They finished August strong, winning their last 4 games (outscoring opponents 37-14 in the process), but they've only hit 1 HR as a team in September.
If they don't come out of their team-wide power slump soon, it's hard to see how they hold off the Phillies (.5 game lead, down from 3 games at the beginning of September.
When you look at their lineup, the problems are obvious, especially the middle of the order. As an example, I'll use their 3-1 loss to the Pirates on Monday, September 6th:
- #3 Martin Prado
- He's having a good year (.313, 13 HR, 61 RBI) and he is a reliable .300 hitter. He's not a prototypcial #3 hitter, and for most of the year he's hit either #1 or #2 in the lineup.
- They are obviously missing Chipper Jones a lot, who has owned the 3 spot in the Braves lineup for many years. It seems like it would make more sense to put Jason Heyward at #3, but he's only 21, and his power has been erratic.
- #4 Derrek Lee
- Lee is a great hitter, but he's having a down year, and he has not hit a HR since he was traded to the Braves on August 19th. Troy Glaus put up good numbers early in the season playing first, but struggled and was sent to the minors.
- When Glaus a few days ago, he got a chance to start at first because Lee needed a day off to rest. It seems unlikely that either of their aging veterans will give them a lot of power between now and the end of the season.
- #5 Matt Diaz
- Diaz has played sporatically this season, and is hitting .240 with 7 HR and 28 RBI.
They've also tried out Eric Hinske at #5, who is also not ideal. If Derrek Lee starts hitting, everything could fall into place, but they are in trouble if they can't get any production out of the clean-up spot.
Their schedule is manageable for the rest of the year, with 13 of their final 22 games at home (they're 49-19 at home vs. 30-40 on the road), including their last 6 games (final series of the year is against the Phillies).