Braves limp into the All-Star Break

Jason Grilli's injury Saturday was a huge blow for the Braves. Now what?

The Braves are at the All-Star Break after a horrific five-game stretch. They lost the last game of the series against the Brewers and were then swept in four games by the Rockies.

Atlanta is now 42-47 on the season, seven games back of the Nationals in the NL East and six games back of the Cubs, the second team in the wildcard.

Let’s cut to the chase here: the season is over. It likely ended Saturday when Jason Grilli ran toward first base and his Achilles’ heel popped. That was the final blow for a team that has been flirting with disaster for some time.

The hope that the Braves could actually do something this season was thin. This was a flawed team from the beginning. It was a transition year, and although the front office did everything to try and keep the team competitive, it was never very logical to believe the Braves would do something special.

Yes, it was fun when the Braves started the season 5-0. It made us believe the team might be better than we believed. And yes, it was fun when the Braves flirted with .500 and hung around in a division that is still somewhat shaky. But it was never realistic to believe that through six months the Braves would compete for the playoffs.

You can blame injuries for the final nail in the coffin, but every team deals with injuries. The Nationals are 48-39, but how much better would they be if they had several of their players healthier in the first part of the season? The Mets have missed several players, but they are five games over .500 and only two games out of first place. That’s part of the game, and the strongest survive no matter what.

So now what? The Braves have a tough 12-game stretch to begin the second part of the season. They start with two home series against the Cubs and Dodgers, followed by road series in St. Louis and Baltimore. All four of those teams are playoff contenders as we hit the break.

The trade deadline is now two-and-a-half weeks away. Expect the Braves to be very active. In fact, the team could look drastically different on August 1.

This team will still be worth watching, as there are several players, particularly pitchers, who are still big parts of the future. The rotation will be the primary focus, as it will be difficult to get all of the starters on the mound. Williams Perez is on the disabled list now, and Mike Foltynewicz is headed back to Gwinnett. We expect Manny Banuelos to be backed off a bit, but it will still be tricky to get all the starters innings.

And unfortunately, the speculation about the future of manager Fredi Gonzalez will also be a growing topic. His contract is up at the end of the season, but will the front office bring him back in 2016?

So buckle up, it will be a wild ride with a lot of changes expected in the second half for the Braves.


Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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