Phillies have nearly doubled the Braves during recent dominance
As the Braves entered the 2010 All-Star break, it seemed like they were closing the gap between themselves and the Phillies. They sat atop the National League East standings with a four-game lead (4.5 games over the Phillies) and had won 17 of the 30 games played against the Phillies dating back to the start of the 2009 season.
But this division rivalry has since proven to be lopsided in favor of the team that is gunning for a sixth consecutive division title this year.
With Tuesday night’s 4-2 win at Turner Field, the Phillies notched their eighth straight win against the Braves. You might have also heard, Philadelphia has now won 18 of the 25 games played against Atlanta dating back to the second half of the 2009 season.
If that is not frustrating enough, let me throw in the fact that the Phillies have outscored the Braves 120-67 during this 25-game span.
With Roy Halladay set to oppose Tommy Hanson tonight, would this be a bad time to add that the Braves have scored two runs or fewer in 10 of the 19 games played against Philadelphia dating back to the start of the 2011 season? Just checking.
Halladay is 3-1 with a 1.72 ERA in six career starts against the Braves. That loss came courtesy of the go-ahead eighth-inning homer Dan Uggla hit against him on May 15 of last year.
One night after seeing his miseries against Cole Hamels extended, Uggla will attend to extend the success he has had against Halladay. He has batted .400 (10-for-25) with three homers against the former Cy Young Award winner.
Unless the Braves were trying to hide something when they held the lineup until 5:45 p.m. yesterday, it’s also safe to assume Chipper Jones will be back in the lineup today. He has seven hits, including three doubles and two homers, in 13 at-bats against Halladay. That first home run was hit on July 20, 1999 after Halladay was forced to come out of the bullpen in relief of a young pitcher named Chris Carpenter.
Having spent the early portion of his Major League career with Toronto, Braves outfielder Eric Hinske got to know both Halladay and Carpenter long before they won their Cy Young Awards. Tonight, he’ll likely have a chance to build off Monday’s four-hit performance at the expense of his former teammate.
Unless Jason Heyward’s right side improve significantly, Hinske should get the start in right field tonight. He has compiled far more at-bats (39) against Halladay than any other Braves player and in the process he has hit .231 with a double and a homer.
Beachy looking more like an ace: The most encouraging development in Tuesday night’s loss was the effort produced by Brandon Beachy, who has spent the season’s first month legitimizing beliefs that he is ready to serve as a front-line starter. Beachy has allowed two earned runs or fewer in each of his first five starts and limited opponents to a .193 batting average.
Beachy’s determination to be more aggressive in the strike zone has allowed him to work into the seventh inning in each of his past four starts and complete at least seven innings in three of those games. These are the results he was seeking after pitching into the seventh inning just four times last year.
This altered approach has prevented Beach from notching the impressive strikeout totals he produced last year. But he believes his strikeout numbers will improve once he finds more consistency with his curveball.
Beachy’s strikeouts per nine innings ratio has dropped from 10.7 to 6.1. Opponents swung and missed 29 percent of his pitches last year. That number is down to 17.1 percent this year.
“My breaking balls just aren’t as sharp right now and that is kind of holding me back from putting away a few of the guys in those (strikeout) situations,” Beachy said.
Looking to follow the lead Beachy provided with his seven solid innings on Tuesday, Hanson will take the mound tonight looking to end his string of bad luck against the Phillies. He is 1-2 with a 2.23 ERA in seven starts against Philadelphia. He has just one win to show for the 1.23 ERA he has posted in his past five outings against the division rivals.
The Braves have scored one run or fewer while Hanson has still been in line for a decision in four of those past five starts against the Phillies. Halladay can relate. The Phillies have scored one run or fewer while he has been in line for a decision in three of his first five starts this year.