The Braves’ lead over the Nationals is down to four games, and keep in mind that Atlanta might be better built for the regular season than the playoffs — the Braves lack a true No. 1 starter, and only the Astros strike out at a higher rate. Injuries to three reserves — catcher Evan Gattis, outfielder Jordan Schaefer and infielder Ramiro Pena — have hurt the Braves’ depth. The bullpen, however, leads the NL in ERA even without injured lefties Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty, and All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel isn’t the only reason. Lefties Luis Avilan and Alex Wood and righties David Carpenter, Jordan Walden and Anthony Varvaro all have made strong contributions. The pending return of righty Brandon Beachy from Tommy John surgery could force a starter to the bullpen, or lead to a trade. — Ken Rosenthal
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