Braves welcome Phillies and Howard back to The Ted

As much as the Braves might like to make an early statement and exit this week’s three-game series against the Phillies sitting atop the National League East standings, it’s still far too early to put too much importance on what transpires at Turner Field over the course of the next three days.  

Through the first 12 games of the 2009 season, the Braves were 6-6 and five games behind the front-running Marlins in the NL East standings.  The Phillies sat 5 games back of this same Marlins club that ended up finishing six game back when all was said and done.  

Oh yeah and in case you forgot, the Braves won seven of the first nine games played against this Phillies team that sat seven games in front of them when the regular season concluded.

The only three-game series against the Phillies that the Braves necessarily want to deem as “important” is the one that will be staged at Turner Field during the final weekend of the regular season (Oct.  1-3).

With this being said, in order to be in position to end Philadelphia’s three-year run as the NL East champs, the Braves certainly could benefit from the opportunity to make a statement against the injury-depleted Phillies club that is in town this week.  

Yes Roy Halladay will toe the rubber during Wednesday night’s game.  But in the other two games this week, the Braves will be challenged by Kyle Kendrick and Jamie Moyer.  

Kendrick has posted a 17.47 ERA and completed just 5 2/3 innings in his first two starts of the season.  The 47-year-old Moyer has split a pair a decisions and surrendered five earned runs in six innings during both of his first two starts.

The Phillies will also be without the leadoff hitter Jimmy Rollins, who is on the disabled list with a strained right calf.  Of course seeing how Rollins hit .205 with a .250 on-base percentage through the first 70 games last year, it’s obvious that the Phillies can survive without him serving as a catalyst at the top of the lineup.  

Looking back at how the Braves managed to win seven of the first nine games played against the Phillies last year, Rollins’ early-season struggles obviously played a part.  But so too did the fact that the Atlanta pitchers managed to limit Ryan Howard to a .250 batting average and ZERO homers.  

While losing six of their last nine games against the Phillies, the Braves saw Howard hit .438 (14-for-32) with eight homers, 14 RBIs, eight strikeouts, two walks (one intentional) and a 1.776 OPS.

Despite his early struggles, Howard still hit more homers (8) and  collected more RBIs (16) than any other player against the Braves last year.  Among those who registered at least 20 plate appearances, his .794 slugging percentage ranked fourth behind Jay Bruce (1.000), Ryan Braun (.833) and Andre Ethier (.800).

During their final six wins against the Braves this year, the Phillies totaled 27 runs.  Howard drove in 11 of those runs and each of these RBIs came courtesy of home runs.

Tommy Hanson, who surrendered one of those eight homers drilled by Howard, will take the hill for the Braves during tonight’s series opener.   Hanson lost just twice in his final 11 starts last year and both of those setbacks came during rain-interrupted outings against the Phillies.  
When Hanson took the mound at Turner Field last year, he was serenaded by Green Day’s “Know Your Enemy.”  

As I mentioned in October,  I suggest the Braves to provide a friendly reminder to their pitchers by playing this song whenever Howard strolls to the plate.  Or maybe they should just cut to the chase and play Aerosmith/Run DMC’s  “Walk This Way”.  

Braves manager Bobby Cox has Matt Diaz back in the leadoff spot for tonight’s series opener against the Phillies.  Diaz has three hits in four career at-bats against Kendrick, who has surrendered a pair of homers to both Chipper Jones and Nate McLouth.

Cox has also moved Heyward up to the sixth spot today and dropped the slumping Yunel Escobar to the seventh spot.  Escobar has tallied just three RBIs since his five-RBI performance on Opening Day. 

BRAVES LINEUP for 4/20 vs. Phillies

Diaz 7
Prado 4
Chipper 5
McCann 2
Glaus 3
Heyward 9
Escobar 6
McLouth 8
Hanson 1

25 Comments

I really don’t understand why you downplay the importance of this series and say the end of year series is more important. They are equally important. Every series is worth the same. If we lose this series and win the final series it is no different than if we win this series and lose the final series. Games early in the year are just as important. No, of course, it doesn’t determine anything yet, but it is just as important.

Also, moving Heyward up is good but I would prefer Glaus gets moved down. We need to protect McCann before we lose his season potential. He is primed for a huge year but unless someone protects him it won’t happen. Instead of worrying about hurting Glaus’ feelings and confidence, we should switch Heyward to 5 and make the most of his production will helping improve McCann’s opportunities. I’m less worried about where Escobar is hitting right now.

You’re right Tommy, they are equally important. What I’m trying to say is that it wouldn’t be the end of the world for either of these teams if they were to get swept this week. The only thing these teams are concerned with is positioning themselves to be playing meaningful games in October.

I also think Glaus should be moved down in the order. We know that Heyward can hit with 2 outs and runners on… why not give him a chance with 0 or 1 outs and runners on? Surrounded by Chipper, Mac, Esco, and Heyward, Glaus is getting some great pitches to hit… but he isnt hitting any of them.

I’m betting Bobby likes having the righty in between lefty batters, which is why Heyward isn’t 5th.

This lineup, with its positioning and without Cabrera(not that I hate him in a platoon, but he needs to show something) might be the smart move right now. Not sure about Glaus. I have differing opinions on him. I’m positive he’ll show power but his lack of power and lack of average right now is terrible.

Anyway, I like the lineup. Let’s see if we can scratch out a win and then take the series.

It’s an exciting series, whether important or not.

I bet that’s exactly what it is, papilgee.

However, I think Prado should bat leadoff. In theory, he already is (just with one out) when McLouth or Melky get out. Then put J-Hey in the two-hole in front of Chipper and BMac. Yes, his RBIs might indicate he should bat lower in the line-up, but with Prado’s OBP and, when the line-up turns over, he could batting with a bunted RISP (or multiple). With Chipper behind him, he will see even more strikes and his patience will pay off for the 3-5 guys behind him.

Also, why doesn’t Bobby play the hot bat? Hinske should be playing 1B for at least one game this series. Give Glaus “the day off”.

And if everyone is against Heyward in the two spot and/or Prado leaving off, then why not bat Esco leadoff? I gaurantee he will hit into fewer DPs.

I have no problem batting Escobar leadoff. It’d be funny if he actually did better there than in the middle of the order.

Man, Glaus’ defense is atrocius. He looks like an stranded whale at first. Flopping around with no hope of survival. Adding that to his lack of production, makes him a minus 1 guy. You have to score an extra run with him in the lineup. I have been patient with a critique of him, but this defense makes him a real liability, whether he starts to hit or not.

Mark, why did Hanson get the early shower. I mean 4.2 innings. The braves score a couple in the bottom of the fifth and he still gets the win. Are we so scared of Howard that we are pulling starters early? I mean he had a 102 pitches but I cant imagine he is on that strict a pitch count. Obviously O’ Flaherty wasn’t the right solution.

Seems to me that we need to start platooning Glaus and Hinske. We need Hinske’s glove over there, and I think Glaus will be more successful hitting against primarily lefties at this point in his career. Not saying that I necessarily agree with hitting Escobar lead off, but the reason I don’t like him in the meat of the order is that he is a double play machine. He kills A LOT of rallies. BUT he also drives in a ton of runs with two outs.

Glaus offers no protection for McCann. If Heyward is on deck, do they walk McCann to load the bases? Come on Glaus. Shut me up! Hit a slam!

Uh huh…………

Ok, now I am mad. How long it Glaus going to be McCann’s protection? I think everyboy saw that DP coming. It keeps happening. Please Bobby move Heyward to 5th. If Glaus hits lower in the order, maybe it will help him relax and perform better. At this point in their careers Heyward is a better option. Am I completely off base?? Please someone help me understand.

Go Braves!!!

Brand new ballgame, gents. I think Glaus relaxed just fine in the 9th inning… and Jason Heyward continues to be our best offensive weapon.

Holy ****. That is all.

Holy ****, again. That is all.

neverwhere, you said it all. You said it all.
Great start to this series… let’s keep the momentum!

That was just AWESOME!!! I’m not gonna be able to sleep now. THAT was one HELL of a game. Even the recent “slackers” pulled through. I even like how Glaus didn’t let the booing get to him and showed everyone up. GREAT comeback!!!

I can get used to this.

Of all people it all started with Glaus and ended with McLouth! Maybe this will help both these guys relax. GO BRAVES!

The Heyward legend continues to grow, Glaus and Mclouth stepped up big and the braves have yet again pulled off a comeback win. Glaus is a funny player right now, there are times I would rather see Hinske play first, but Bobby has trusted in him like he does with so many that have played for him and it definitely sparked the offense. Kudos to Bobby ‘s trust in a guy, maybe there is some magic left in the ol mangers lamp after all.

We need to somehow make Heyward ALWAYS think it is either one of two situations: His first at bat of his career… or bottom of the 9th, 2 out.

Can we get a hypnotherapist for him before every at bat? Nothing permanent, just convince him it is one of those two situations… every at bat… for the next 20 years.

It’s funny to see the evolution of comments on this thread from really ticked off and hating certain players, to elated and thrilled with the makeup of this team.
This team is special. Even the dogs are coming through for us (Glaus and McLouth). That’s when you know you have a special team. We’re leading the majors in come from behind wins. That reminds me of the early 90’s!!!
However, Glaus is still not out of the dog house with me. I would still like to see Hinske more. Also, his defense is a liability. I agree with Barrysbravesboys – Bobby should start utilizing Glaus against lefties primarily in this stage of his career.

Even with Glaus, Escobar, McLouth, Melky, etc struggling, I just realized.. we’re tied for first!
I also think that we can have this discussion about Glaus in May. See how he’s doing then. It’s gonna be really hard for him to come around if we put him in a platoon this early. Though.. I really like Hinske. He’s one of those Tim Hudson-like players. Whenever they show the bench after a scoring play, he’s always up front and center cheering.

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