Barring any unforeseen injuries to a substantial amount of key players or lack of production from others, the Braves and Phillies should once again be the top teams in the N.L. East next season. It's usually hard to predict at this point, but with so many players under contract for both teams through next year it seems reasonable to make that statement.
The schedules for next season have been released and the Braves end the year playing against the Phillies at home. There are a number of other big series throughout the season in regards to rivalries, location, and time of year. Here are the top five biggest series on the Braves' schedule next season in reverse order.
5. Rockies in Colorado, July 18-21
The Braves will just be coming out of the All-Star break, with only a three game set against the Nationals at home coming before their series against the Rockies. They will immediately leave Atlanta and head to Colorado for four games. It's critical that the team comes out of the break well and produces in these types of tough series'.
4. Phillies in Philadelphia, July 8-10
The Braves travel to Philadelphia for their last series of the first half. Unless one of the teams runs away with a lead in the first half, this will probably be a big series for both teams. Just as coming out of the All-Star break hot is important, playing good baseball heading into it is as well.
3. Nationals in Washington, March 31-April 3
The Braves start up the year against the Nationals once again in Washington, just as they did for the opening of the ballpark. Tim Hudson would likely be the starter for the Braves on opening day. The start of the season does not determine too much, but getting into a groove after Spring Training ends is definitely a good omen.
2. Marlins in Florida, September 19-21
The Marlins always play the Braves well. If the Braves are in contention late in the year, they will have to deal with the Marlins attempting to spoil their season in Florida. Beating the other divisional opponents has been a problem for the Braves lately and may cost them a playoff spot this year. Taking care of the Marlins in Florida late in the season could be vital to their October hopes.
1. Phillies in Atlanta, September 26-28
This is the season ender and could potentially make or break both teams' playoff hopes. You have to imagine that the schedulers expect these two teams to be competing for the division title, and that maximum viewership and attendance would occur if they are scheduled to play in the final series of the year. If either team is close to reaching the other, expect them to go all-out in some intense late September baseball.