Joe Torre had managed the Braves to the 1982 National League West Division title, then to a second-place 1983 finish (three games from the division title). But his 1984 Braves fell below the .500 mark and 12 lengths behind the division-champion San Diego Padres. Torre was fired when the 1984 campaign ended and replaced by coach Eddie Haas, who had been a successful pilot in the Braves' farm system. But Haas' appointment did not rouse the 1985 Braves, who were at 50–71 (.413), in fifth place in the NL West and mired in a six-game losing streak when Haas was relieved of his duties August 25. Haas' immediate successor, coach Bobby Wine, finished the season and compiled a 16–25 (.390) mark. During the offseason, the Braves would hire former Pittsburgh Pirates skipper Chuck Tanner as their 1986 manager.
The Braves started the season 4–1 but lost three consecutive games to the Reds at home to fall to .500. A 9–5 win over the Astros on Friday, April 19, gave the Braves a 5–4 record, good enough for second place, a half-game out. However, the Braves would not be above the .500 mark again. They lost three straight games to drop into fifth place with a 5–7 mark. Later, the Braves beat the Reds twice, 8–4 and 17–9 to even their record at 10–10, and to climb within a game of first place. This was on May 1, and the Braves led the National League in runs scored.
Things changed quickly, however. The Braves not only lost eight of their next ten games (May 3–14), they were also shut out four consecutive games (May 8–12). They were held to only one run in each of the two games that followed, one of which was a win. The 12–18 Braves were in last place, six games out. Atlanta improved to 16–19 and 41⁄2 games out of first following a 3–0 win over Chicago on May 19. The Braves then lost three straight to the Cardinals, the beginning of a 4–11 stretch that lowered their record to 20–30 on June 7. Atlanta was 101⁄2 games behind at that point and the Braves' situation was becoming precarious. They won their next three games by impressive margins, 7–3 and 10–3 over Los Angeles and 70 over San Francisco. By June 28, Atlanta was 33–38 and 91⁄2 games of first place. They were mired in fifth place, however.
The Braves lost nine of their next 11 games and were 35–47 on July 10, in fifth place and 12 games out. They swept the Philadelphia Phillies in four games just before the All-Star Break. Atlanta was 39–47 at the half, in fifth place and 91⁄2 out.