When the month of September started, all signs in Braves Country pointed toward a second consecutive National League Wild Card berth and its first under the direction of Fredi Gonzalez.
Coming into the month, the Braves held an 8-1/2 game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the Wild Card standings, posting a record of 80-55 through the seasons first five months.
But September, aside from a few sporadic outings, has been nothing more than frustrating for the Braves, who have seen their once comfortable Wild Card lead dwindle to one game heading into the final three games of the season.
The month began on a positive, as the Braves posted a 5-2 win against the visiting Nationals, but it was just the beginning of a September-to-forget.
After dropping two of three to the visiting Dodgers and losing the season series to L.A. for the first time since 2002, the Braves went into Philadelphia and were swept for the first time of the season, getting outscored 18-5 by their NL East nemesis.
While Atlanta swept the Hurricane Irene doubleheader in New York, they were once again swept, this time by the St. Louis Cardinals, as the bullpen began to show its mortality, giving up a late-inning lead in the opener and watching Craig Kimbrel blow his sixth save of the season.
After getting swept, the Braves posted their lone series win of September, taking two of three from the visiting Marlins.
But the very next series, the Mets came into Turner Field and showed the Braves truly how big a role of spoiler other teams can play, as New York took two of three behind a 12-2 win in the Friday night opener.
With nine games remaining on the schedule, the Braves set out for Florida, looking to put a little room between them and the Cardinals.
But the Braves were unable to do so, as Kimbrel once again blew a save in the opener, his second of the month, as the Marlins took two of three from the Braves in the final series between the two teams at Sun Life a.k.a Dolphin Stadium.
Heading into the final road series of the season, Atlanta knew it needed to leave D.C. with at least two wins, but the Braves were turned away, as the Nationals took on the role of spoiler themselves, winning the final two games after Atlanta won the opener and sending the Braves home to Atlanta with a very slim one-game lead in the Wild Card.
In the month of September, the Braves have an 8-15 record and have been shut out three times, while the Cardinals have gone 16-7.
With the pitching staff running thin with injuries and overuse and the lineup failing to produce at key times, can the Braves take two of three against the Phillies in the seasons final series, or will Philadelphia once again frustrate the Braves and douse any chance at a second straight playoff berth?
This Braves fan certainly hopes not, but anything can happen. For now, I will chop & chant and hope that a fire is lit in the clubhouse.
If the Braves and Cardinals finish the season tied atop the Wild Card standings, St. Louis will host a one-game playoff to determine the Wild Card winner.