The second Braves-Phillies series in the past 10 days was just as well played and hotly contested as advertised. Once again the Braves were able to take 2 of 3 from Philadelphia to inch a little closer to 1st place in the standings. Friday the 13th certainly got off to an unlucky start for Atlanta, as slugger Ryan Howard put the the Phillies on the board in the top of the first with a 3-run shot to center off Brandon Beachy, after getting the benefit of the doubt on some borderline pitches. Beachy would then strain his oblique muscle while striking out to end the bottom of the 2nd. After throwing a few warm-up tosses in the 3rd, Beachy would have to be lifted and long reliever Cristhian Martinez was called upon to weather the storm. Martinez did a very solid job getting through 4 hitless shutout innings with 4 K’s. The resilient Braves would briefly take the lead 4-3 late in the game, before Shane Victorino was the benefactor of more questionable ball and strike calling from homeplate umpire David Rackley in the top of the 7th. Reliever Eric O’Flaherty and catcher Brian McCann were on their way off the field after what they believed was a called third strike on Victorino, but Rackley had actually called the pitch a ball and of course Victorino served a 2-out single to center scoring Jimmy Rollins from second tying the game at 4. To put it simply, the pitch was a strike and the inning should have been over. Nevertheless, the Braves would go on to lose the opener 5-4.
While wearing Negro League throwback uniforms inspired by the Atlanta Black Crackers in honor of Civil Rights Weekend in Atlanta, the Braves wasted no time trying to even the series on Saturday afternoon with young stud Jair Jurrjens on the mound. After he cruised through the top of the first, Martin Prado and Nate McLouth launched back to back homers to lead off the home half, and the Braves and Jurrjens never looked back, rolling on to the 5-3 win. Sunday’s pitcher’s duel between Roy Halladay and Tim Hudson lived up to its billing, as the Braves and Phillies once again wore old school uni’s from 1974 paying homage to Hank Aaron’s home run record. With the game deadlocked at 2-2 in the bottom of the 8th, Dan Uggla turned on a 3-2 fastball from Halladay, barely clearing the wall in left-center to give the Braves the 3-2 lead, and capping off a 2- for-3 day for Uggla with all 3 runs scored. Hopefully that strong performance against one of the league’s elite starting pitchers will get Dan going at the plate. A meaner, more dialed in Craig Kimbrel did the same thing he did in Saturday’s game, shutting out the Phillies in the 9th for his 10th save, as the Braves once again took the rubber game in the weekend series between the two NL East rivals.
The Braves (23-19, 3.5 GB) will open a short 2 game set with the Houston Astros on Monday to finish off the homestand before traveling to Arizona. Last weekend after the Braves took 2 of 3 from the Phillies in a big series, they had a letdown against the Nationals, almost getting swept. I expect a more focused effort against one of the NL’s worst teams this time around. Can’t play down to the level of your competition. Would love to see the Bravos build up some momentum and get a little mini sweep before hitting the road again. Tommy Hanson and Derek Lowe will be the starters against Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez.
The Good: LF Martin Prado picked up the NL Player of the Week award for games played through May 15th. The Braves lead-off man batted .462 (12-for-26) in 6 games with 3 homers, 8 RBI, and 7 runs scored…Jair Jurrjens is now 5-0 with a 1.66 ERA and has won 4 straight decisions.
The Bad: RF Jason Heyward missed the majority of the series with Philadelphia, other than a late pinch running stint in Game 2, due to continued inflammation in his right shoulder. A trip to the DL may be upcoming…RHP Brandon Beachy was placed on the DL on Sunday with a strained oblique and could miss up to a month. Julio Teheran will most likely be called up from Triple-A Gwinnett to replace him in the rotation…3B Chipper Jones was a late scratch for Sunday’s game with a slight meniscus tear in his right knee (not the knee he had major ACL surgery on last summer). Jones said he’d probably know within a day or two whether he would be able to return and play or if he would need minor arthroscopic surgery, requiring a DL stint of his own.
The Ugly: The Braves may be the walking wounded if they have to go significant time without Beachy, Heyward, and Jones. If Chipper requires surgery that could mean more time for (gulp) Brooks Conrad in the field, and all Braves fans know that has the potential to get REAL ugly…RHP Scott Linebrink has been lights on out of the bullpen (that’s gotta be the opposite of lights out, right?). His goatee and ERA remind me a lot of Dan Kolb, so maybe if he shaves that off he’ll get it together.
About the Author
Written by Marcus Young
"A lotta room in right-center, if he hits one there we can dance in the streets. The 2-1. Swung, line drive left field! One run is in! Here comes Bream! Here's the throw to the plate! He is...SAFE! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win!...Braves win!" The late great Skip Caray with my favorite sports call of all time as a lumbering Sid Bream was able to beat Barry Bonds' three-hopper to the plate by an eyelash in the old Atlanta Fulton County Stadium to secure the Atlanta Braves' miraculous back-to-back World Series trips in 1991 and 1992. I grew up in Atlanta, I am still a die hard Braves, Falcons, and Hawks fan and am hungry for another championship to put alongside that lonely 1995 World Series trophy! I graduated from Wake Forest University in 2002 and am back living in Hot-lanta now. Go Deacs and Go Dawgs! My favorite athletes are John Smoltz, Magic Johnson, and Brett Favre. Braves are on a mission in 2011 in the 20th anniversary of that magical 1991 season!