Now, the cushion is a little bit less, though the Braves still hold the NL's best record among non-division leaders and therefore are in firm control of a Wild Card spot. As Tim Hudson takes the hill to kick off September, he'll do so aiming to stop a streak of recent struggles that has seen Atlanta drop nine of its last 13 games -- a stretch that could conjure haunting memories of last year's collapse.
"Honestly, I don't think anyone is really concerned with last year at all," Hudson said. "Last year was last year. We're a different team than we were last year. All we can do is just go out there and control how hard we play and try to do our job the best way we can. We did that last year. We just didn't win last year. But I feel we're a better team."
The Braves also face a favorable schedule, one in which 24 of their 27 September contests come against losing teams. Still, bouncing back from Friday's 8-5, 10-inning loss to Philadelphia will be crucial for Atlanta keep a hold on its lead and fend off any ghosts of last September.
But despite what the schedule says, the Braves certainly won't get an easy start to the month, as the Phillies will send out Cliff Lee on Saturday and Cole Hamels on Sunday. Lee has yet to start against the Braves this season.
"They've got their best three going against us," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of the offense that scored just four runs in a three-game series at San Diego before an eight-run outburst Friday. "We've had some opportunities to score runs, even in San Diego and San Francisco. We just haven't split the gap when we've had to and that big two-out knock hasn't come. We've got that good offensive team I believe that can score some runs."
Lee has lasted into the sixth inning or later in each of his last 10 starts, and if he throws like he did in his last outing -- a seven-inning, one-run performance against the Nationals -- the Braves' offense could have its work cut out for it.
Braves: Baker acquired, Wilson released
Atlanta announced Friday that it has acquired utilityman Jeff Baker from Detroit for a player to be named. Baker was traded to the Tigers from the Cubs earlier this year, and was hitting .269 in 54 games with Chicago in 2012. He was hitting just .200 in 15 games with Detroit.
Atlanta also announced Friday that it released veteran shortstop Jack Wilson, who was nearing a return from the 15-day disabled list with a dislocated pinkie.
Wilson hit just .169 in 40 games -- largely in the backup shortstop role -- for the Braves this season.
Phillies: Schierholtz expected to return Saturday
Outfielder Nate Schierholtz, who hasn't played since Aug. 12 after a broken right big toe sent him to the 15-day disabled list, is expected to be activated Saturday.
Schierholtz was traded from San Francisco to Philadelphia in the Hunter Pence deal, and is hitting .219 with one homer in 32 at-bats with the Phils.
Saturday's start will be Hudson's 400th career game and 399th start.
After a 1-for-5 night Friday, Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins is seven hits shy of 2,000.
Philadelphia closer Jonathan Papelbon tallied his 250th save Friday, become the fifth-youngest pitcher to reach that milestone.