LAWRENCEVILLE - With 21 games remaining in the season and all 21 against division opponents, the Gwinnett Braves' playoff chances hinge on the final stretch.
It was one week ago that the G-Braves took over sole possession of first place in the International League's South Division with a win over then-co-leading Durham. The win was part of a 3-1 series against the Bulls and a 7-1 home stand that included a sweep of Pawtucket.
"This is a great time of year," manager Dave Brundage said. "This is what you play the game of baseball for."
Before taking over first in the division, the G-Braves were already in position to make the playoffs as the IL's wild card team, a distinction now owned by Durham. The Bulls trail Gwinnett by 3 games, but lead the wild card by 41/2. Tickets for the postseason go on sale Sept. 1.
If Gwinnett makes the playoffs, either as division or wild card winner, it will host the first two games of the first round series on Sept. 9 and 10. The only thing that changes is who they play.
The International League predetermines the matchups for the five-game series that have two games at one site and the final three, as needed, at the opposing team's field. The first-round series begins Sept. 9.
If the G-Braves win the South they will face the West champ and if they win the Wild Card they will face the North Champ. Scranton-Wilkes/Barre currently leads the North and Louisville leads the West.
The Governors' Cup Championship series begins Sept. 15 at the home of the winner of the South-West series winner.
The IL Champion then plays one game against the winner of the Pacific Coast League in Oklahoma City, Okla. in the Triple-A Baseball National Championship game, previously called the Brickdown Showdown.
Winning a Class AAA championship or even a pennant is obviously not the goal of the Braves' organization, but it helps to keep the minor-league players engaged as the season hits late July and August.
"You get in the dog days of August and players are tired and banged up, but they know we are playing for something," Brundage said. "We are playing for a championship."
SideBar: At a glance
· What: Gwinnett Braves playoff tickets
· When: Tickets go on sale Sept. 1
· Cost: $6-$35
· Where: www.gwinnettbraves.com, Gwinnett Stadium, TicketMaster outlets or by phone 1-800-745-3000
Sept. 9, 10*
Sept. 15, 16**
Sept. 17, 18, 19***
*first round home games if G-Braves make playoffs
**second round home games if G-Braves win South Division
***second round home games if G-Braves win Wild Card