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Domino Effect: What If The Atlanta Braves Hadn't Folded?

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{NOTE: THIS IS ALSO THE GAME THREAD FOR GAME 3 OF THE WORLD SERIES}

Back 8.5 in the Wild Card in September, the St. Louis Cardinals had to keep winning something fierce, but they were far enough back that just winning wasn't going to be enough. Beyond their control, they needed the Atlanta Braves to really tank -- and tank they did, losing 18 of their final 26 and their last 5 in a row, or else despite their September efforts the Cardinals would have finished in 9th place for an 8-team post-season bracket.

Who knows what else would be different besides St. Louis watching from the sidelines the whole time, rather than entering tonight's game just three wins shy of a World Series title?

As a Wild Card coming from the Eastern Division, Atlanta would have played Milwaukee while the Phillies would have matched up with the Diamondbacks. Perhaps that would have allowed the Phillies, baseball's winningest team in the regular season, to advance at least to the NLCS and possibly on to send Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee to the mound four times against the Texas Rangers.

On the flip side, as good as the Phillies were throughout the season, perhaps three sports hernias and a ruptured tendon would have relegated them to be bounced anyway. Maybe Tim Hudson would have come up big and led the Braves to a series of upsets, or perhaps Huddy would have visited a bar in Milwaukee and...Too soon.

The point is, we haven't seen or heard from the Atlanta Braves for nearly a month now yet their complete and utter meltdown has profoundly changed the NL landscape throughout the post-season: Right down to the fact that the NL is represented in the World Series by baseball's hottest team and that team did not fully control its own destiny in September. The Braves just had to be "not gawdawful" and they couldn't do it. And here we are.

Game 3 at 5:00pm PDT features your basic legendary aces: Kyle Lohse and Matt Harrison. Are these going to the be the starters if the series goes 7? Ruh-roh.

There will now be a medium-sized intermission and we'll see you at 5:00pm. Discuss! Frolic! Gambol! Dissect! But enough about lunch.