The Braves, winners of ten straight, have opened up a 12.5 game lead in the NL East

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Braves youngster Alex Wood gave up one run over six innings in his start on Sunday night against the Phillies — a start in which Delmon Young struck out four times, seeing a total of 15 pitches — to help the Braves to another win. It was their tenth in a row. Meanwhile, the Phillies have gone 1-9 in that stretch. The Nationals have gone a more respectable 6-4. But everyone, obviously, has lost ground and the Braves now sit atop the NL East with a staggering 12.5 game lead.

The winning streak is impressive for a few reasons. First it began as the Braves lost Tim Hudson for the season, making many wonder if they’d have the starting pitching to maintain their division lead. Well, during the winning streak they’ve allowed more than four runs only once and three runs or fewer in seven of those games. Both the starters and the bullpen have been pretty fantastic.

Also impressive: the offensive contributions have come from a number of players. Chris Johnson is on fire, hitting nearly .350. Justin Upton and Jason Heyward are heating up after extended periods of “meh” since April. Even B.J. Upton has gotten into the act. The Braves have had various players carrying them on offense at times this season while most other bats have flailed (Justin Upton in April, Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman at times since then) but now they are finally seeing something more akin to a balanced attack.

Finally, it’s been interesting to see the streak go down against decent competition: the Braves have swept the Cardinals and a decent Rockies team and now they’ve dispatched a would-be division rival in the Phillies. Beginning today they play three against the Nats. While a 12.5 game lead is huge — ESPN has the Braves at a 99.9% probability of making the playoffs – a sweep of the Nats this week would basically break their opposition’s back.

Of course this is the Braves, a team which choked away a big division lead just two years ago. It just wasn’t this big, and for that to happen now would require something in baseball the likes of which is rarely if ever seen.

Cole Hamels done for year after just 1 start for Braves

Cole Hamels triceps injury
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ATLANTA — After making just one start for the Atlanta Braves, Cole Hamels is done for the season.

Hamels reported shortly before the start of a four-game series against the Miami Marlins that he didn’t feel like he could get anything on the ball. The left-hander was scheduled to make his second start Tuesday after struggling throughout the year to overcome shoulder and triceps issues.

The Braves placed Hamels on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Sept. 18,, but that was a mere formality. General manager Alex Anthopoulos already contacted Major League Baseball about replacing Hamels in the team’s postseason player pool.

“Cole knows himself and his body,” Anthopoulos said. “You trust the player at that point when he says he can’t go.”

The Braves began Monday with a three-game lead in the NL East .and primed for their third straight division title.

Even with that success, Atlanta has struggled throughout the shortened 60-game series to put together a consistent rotation beyond Cy Young contender Max Fried and rookie Ian Anderson.

Expected ace Mike Soroka went down with a season-ending injury, former All-Star Mike Foltynewicz was demoted after just one start, and Sean Newcomb also was sent to the alternate training site after getting hammered in his four starts.

The Braves have used 12 starters this season.

Anthopoulos had hoped to land another top starter at the trade deadline but the only deal he was able to make was acquiring journeyman Tommy Milone from the Orioles. He’s on the injured list after getting hammered in three starts for the Braves, giving up 22 hits and 16 runs in just 9 2/3 innings.

“There’s no doubt that our starting pitching has not performed to the level we wanted it to or expected it to,” Anthopoulos said. “I know that each year you never have all parts of your club firing. That’s why depth is so important.”

Hamels, who signed an $18 million, one-year contract last December, reported for spring training with a sore shoulder stemming from an offseason workout.

When camps were shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, Hamels was able to take a more cautious approach to his rehabilitation. But a triceps issue sidelined again before the delayed start of the season in July.

The Braves hoped Hamels would return in time to provide a boost for the playoffs. He also was scheduled to start the final game of the regular season Sunday, putting him in position to join the postseason rotation behind Fried and Anderson.

Now, Hamels is done for the year, his Braves’ career possibly ending after he made that one appearance last week in Baltimore. He went 3 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on three hits, with two strikeouts and one walk in a loss to the Orioles.

Hamels reported no problems immediately after his start, but he didn’t feel right after a bullpen session a couple of days ago.

“You’re not going to try to talk the player into it,” Anthopoulos said. “When he says he isn’t right, that’s all we need to hear.”

Atlanta recalled right-hander Bryse Wilson to replace Hamels on the 28-man roster. The Braves did not immediately name a starter for Tuesday’s game.

With Hamels out, the Braves will apparently go with Fried (7-0, 1.96), Anderson (3-1, 2.36) and Kyle Wright (2-4, 5.74) as their top three postseason starters.

Hamels is a four-time All-Star with a career record of 163-122. He starred on Philadelphia’s World Series-winning team in 2008 and also pitched for Texas and the Chicago Cubs.

Last season, Hamels went 7-7 with a 3.81 ERA in 27 starts for the Cubs.