Five thoughts before the game:
1. I'm very interested to see how Smoltz is pitching now. He's tailed off a little over his past several starts, with shorter endurance and more propensity to allow hits and runs. Right now, the Braves are a slightly less than 50% proposition against any non-NL West playoff opponent because of the lack of depth in the bullpen. (Come to think of it, I'd feel pretty confident in an NLCS against any of the opponents in the East other than the Marlins.) If Smoltz isn't pitching well when October rolls around, then their odds slide even further. I'll pay attention to his velocity and command as the game goes on.
2. Chipper Jones is to Mets fans as _______ is/are to Braves fans? Who is our bete noire? Ben Sheets? Mike Redmond? Opposing pitchers making their first career starts?
3. The Braves have been totally ineffectual against Pedro so far this season, despite having two games to take cracks at him. Is there any reason to think that tonight will be different? Will experience against him help the team tonight, as it did last year against Kris Benson? Is Pedro tiring at the end of the year, just like Smoltz appears to be?
4. One encouraging thought about the team is that John Thomson has made two solid starts in a row. If he's healthy and pitching well, then all of a sudden, I like this team a lot more because they can move Sosa from the starting rotation to the bullpen to act as the third reliable option behind Farnsworth and Boyer. And speaking of which, Kyle Davies has been pretty solid in a couple long relief outings in recent weeks, so he could play a constructive role in the Braves' pen in October. If we keep Dan Doodie or Jim Brower on the post-season roster in place of Davies, then I might...write a very stern letter to Bobby Cox expressing my displeasure at that decision.
5. The Braves' six-game lead in the N.L. East is nice. Ideally, the team will be pushed by someone in the division so they don't coast to the finish, a problem for the team (and conversely, the major advantage for wild card teams) over the past several years, but at this stage, I don't really see this Braves team as a major threat to win the World Series, so preserving the streak of winning divisional titles seems very important to me. That said, I don't know how I would feel about being eliminated for the fourth straight year in the first round, although there would be no dishonor in losing to a team fronting Clemens-Oswalt-Pettite as its playoff rotation.