The Atlanta Braves are on the verge of clinching the NL East and will likely play the winner of the NL Central in the division series. I'm sure they aren't concerned about these remaining games and just want to get the playoffs started. You can understand that mindset, but there are a few things they need to work on and get better at before the regular season ends.
Here are three things the Braves still need to prove before the NLDS.
3. Ronald Acuña Jr. Reaching 40-40 Season
Does a 40-40 season matter in the grand scheme of things when it comes to a team having success in the postseason? Of course it doesn't. However, Ronald Acuña Jr. is so close that you can tell he's laser focused on achieving something that has rarely every happened. Acuña is almost there, as he belted his 40th home run of the season on Thursday. All he needs now is three stolen bases to reach that mark, and with his speed and ability to get on base, this might be the easiest part for him. If Acuña can get this out of the way and get his mind right, the Braves will only benefit heading into October.
2. Mike Foltynewicz Locking Down Fourth Spot in Rotation
You can mark it down that Dallas Keuchel, Mike Soroka and Max Fried will be the first three starters in Atlanta's rotation. But who do they hand the ball to for Game 4? Maybe they go to Keuchel or Soroka on short rest, but there's a good chance they give the ball to Julio Teheran or Mike Foltynewicz. That spot is still up in the air, but with the way Foltynewicz has pitched since the All-Star break (5-0 with 2.76 ERA in eight starts), the Braves have to be secretly hoping he continues his dominance on the mound and outshines Teheran so it's an easy decision.
1. Can They Hit With Runners in Scoring Position?
When you look up and down the Braves lineup, it is littered with star players who can hit the ball out of the park. That's a great weapon to have, but in October, you need to be able to play a little small ball and get guys in who are in scoring position. That's been a problem for Atlanta for quite a while. Since August 1, the Braves rank 21st in MLB hitting with runners in scoring position (.246). That simply won't get it done. Over the remaining couple of weeks, the Braves need to make a concerted effort to get these big hits and drive in their teammates who are in scoring position.