Instead, Atlanta is heading home for the final week of the season spinning its wheels, still in the wild-card picture but not playing anything close to playoff baseball.
The Braves lost 4-2 to the last-place Washington Nationals on Sunday in a game in which every run allowed by the Atlanta pitching staff reached base with a free pass -- and in which the Braves went 0 for 5 with two bags occupied.
"We've got to turn the intensity up," catcher Brian McCann said. "And we've got to make every at-bat count. We've got six games to make this thing happen, and we'll see what we're made of."
The Braves have lost five of six, including two of three to the Nationals. They lost the season series 10-8 to Washington, a team that is 22 games below .500.
The Braves put two runners on base with fewer than two outs three times in the first six innings and failed to score each time. Rick Ankiel was the only Atlanta batter to produce runs, leading off the fifth with a home run and a doubling home Melky Cabrera with no out to make it 2-all in the seventh.
Brandon Beachy, making his second career start, struck out nine over five innings. But the right-hander, who is pitching because Jair Jurrjens has a sore right knee, also walked three batters -- and two of them scored.
"I didn't have control those first couple of innings, and it hurt me," Beachy said.
Kyle Farnsworth (0-2) was even more off course, walking two of the four batters he faced. He entered in the seventh and got a pair of quick outs before walking Willie Harris and Danny Espinosa. Farnsworth was relieved by Jonny Venters, who promptly threw four consecutive balls to Nyjer Morgan to load the bases. Ian Desmond then singled to center, scoring the two runs that put the Nationals ahead for good.
Sean Burnett (1-7) got a win by retiring six batters in a row in relief of starter Livan Hernandez.