September 19, 2011
The gut punches keep coming for the Atlanta Braves and their fans.
One day after Jonny Venters(notes) surrendered a late lead to the New York Mets, his young bullpen mate Craig Kimbrel(notes) did him one worse in a 6-5 loss to the Florida Marlins on Monday night. With an important win just one out away, the rookie closer instead surrendered a two-run, walk-off home run to former Braves All-Star Omar Infante(notes).
Infante's homer, though, was only possible because Emilio Bonifacio(notes) reached first on an infield single with two outs in the ninth. The play was originally ruled an error on Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones(notes), who said he lost the high chop in the lights.
"It's a funny game," Jones told David O'Brien of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Just when you think you've got it figured out, it'll kick you in the gut."
And how. The Braves lead in the NL wild card is down to 2 1/2 games over the St. Louis Cardinals, who hung on to beat the Phillies 6-5. St. Louis had trailed by as many as 10.5 games on Aug. 25, but Atlanta's 6-12 record in September has extended the race.
Their lead has grown so slim, in fact, that the Braves can't even turn to coolstandings.com for consolation any more. With a single swing from Infante, the Braves' chances of making the playoffs decreased from 88 percent to 78. That's not crushing by any means, but we've entered the territory where each win or loss is going to move that needle considerably. With eight games remaining and their magic number stagnating at seven, the Braves need a victory in the worst way.
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