Blog: Braves prepared to battle Phillies again
When this season’s Braves schedule was released, two of the most intriguing series were obviously the ones scheduled against the Phillies in September. Entering the first of these two series the Braves trail the Phillies by 7 1/2 games.
With the Braves having just 23 games remaining, it would be an obvious shock if the Phillies did not win a fifth consecutive National League East crown. Of course if you want to remain optimistic, you can remember Philadelphia won the first of these consecutive division titles in 2007, when the Mets owned a seven-game lead with just 17 games remaining.
This year’s Phillies obviously aren’t the 2007 Mets. In fact, it has been suggested many times that they are one of the best teams to be assembled over the past couple decades. Chipper Jones compared them to the 1998 Yankees a few weeks back.
But as you long-time Braves fans have learned multiple times, the best teams do not always win. My opinion has always been that the 1998 Braves team was the best of those from the string of 14 consecutive division titles. Just off the top of my head, the 1993 an 2003 clubs would rank right behind that club.
The 1998 team got beat by Sterling Hitchcock and like the other two aforementioned clubs did not make it to the World Series.
Last year as I stood at Citizens Bank Park before Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, a member of the Giants front office said based on what he heard on the radio that day, he “wasn’t sure why they had even made the trip to Philadelphia.”
About two weeks later, he and all of the other members of the Giants organization were celebrating a World Series title.
The Giants’ pitching staff got red-hot down the stretch and remained so throughout October. Over the next couple weeks, the focus on the Braves will be on their pitching staff.
The Braves will likely provide an update on Jair Jurrjens’ right knee today and Tommy Hanson is expected to play long toss. Updates will be provided later this evening.
Braves GM Frank Wren said last week that he remained optimistic that Hanson will pitch again this year. There is certainly time for him to do so, but the clock is ticking. In other words, the big right-hander really doesn’t have much room to experience even a minor setback.
There will also be plenty of attention placed on Derek Lowe as he attempts to rekindle last year’s late-season success and build on his last few starts. He is 3-2 with a 3.00 ERA in his past five outings and he enters tonight’s start having gone 1-2 with a 2.84 ERA in three starts against the Phillies this year.
Lowe will be opposing Cliff Lee, who is 5-0 with a 0.45 ERA in his past five starts. The Phillies’ left-hander is 0-2 with a 4.91 ERA in three starts against the Braves this year and 0-3 with a 5.60 ERA in the five career starts he has made against Atlanta while playing for Philadelphia.
Lee’s home run against Hanson on July 9 accounted for the only run the Phillies have scored while he has been pitching in his last two starts against the Braves.
The Braves and Phillies have split the first 12 games played this season. The six games played this month might not dramatically affect the standings.
But if the Braves continue to find some success against the Phillies, there is a chance it will aid them from a mental perspective once October arrives.