Braves have chance to influence Phillies’ plans
After seeing their hopes buried by the Phillies last year the Braves have a chance to return the favor this year.
Well kind of.
Having taken advantage of the woeful Brewers bullpen, the Phillies enter this weekend’s series against the Braves with a four-game winning streak and reason to delay thoughts of serving as selling Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence before Tuesday’s Trade Deadline.
Philadelphia’s hopes of winning a sixth consecutive division title are essentially dead as they sit 14 1/2 games back of the first-place Nationals in the National League East race. But they sit just 9 1/2 games back of the Braves, who would gain the NL’s second Wild Card entry if the season ended today. And as you might remember it is possible for teams to lose a 9 1/2-game lead in the Wild Card race with as little as one month left.
With this being said, the odds of the Phillies reaching the playoffs are steep. But the club’s general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal that this weekend’s series in Atlanta will impact his mindset in the days leading up to the deadline.
“We have to play well against these guys,” Amaro told Rosenthal. “They’re a very tough team. We don’t necessarily have to sweep ‘em. But it’s important for us to win the series…If we don’t win two of three, it’s not the end of the world. But it certainly doesn’t help us.”
This weekend’s pitching matchups are: Ben Sheets vs. Cole Hamels (Friday) Mike Minor vs. Joe Blanton (Saturday) and Tim Hudson vs. Roy Halladay (Sunday).
With Tommy Hanson struggling since the All-Star break, Hudson, Sheets and Minor currently stand as the most reliable assets in this rotation that the Braves are hoping to improve by Tuesday.
The Braves have continued to show interest in Milwaukee’s Zack Greinke, who could certainly be moved before he makes his next scheduled start on Sunday. The Rangers, Angels and White Sox are among the other most likely suitors for the former Cy Young Award winner.
The Rangers certainly have the prospects needed to land Greinke and possibly stand as the one club that could prevent him from landing in Atlanta.
But a National League scout said he believes the Rangers are at least equally interested in acquiring the Marlins’ Josh Johnson. Right now the Marlins are looking for a significant return for Johnson and might not end up trading him.
But if there is some indication over the next couple days that the Marlins are lowering their demands, then there would be reason to believe Johnson will be traded.
As for the Ryan Dempster situation, it became more interesting on Friday with the revelation that Matt Garza will not pitch until after the Trade Deadline. Though an MRI exam revealed no damage in Garza’s recently-sore right triceps muscle, the Dodgers will likely hold off on trading for him. This means they could end up providing Dempster his wish to spend the final two months of the season with them.
If Dempster does not end up in Los Angeles, there is still a slight chance he ends up in Atlanta. But as Braves general manager Frank Wren said on Wednesday, that now seems “highly unlikely.”
The Braves have expressed interest in the Padres’ Edinson Volquez and the Rays’ James Shields. Like with Johnson, it will be interesting to see if the Padres and Rays start asking for less in return as we get closer to Tuesday’s Trade Deadline.
Volquez has been one of the game’s hottest pitchers as he has posted a 1.55 ERA and limited opponents to a .164 batting average in his past six starts. Shields, who finished third in last year’s balloting for the AL Cy Young Award, has posted a 6.15 ERA and allowed opponents to hit .323 against him in his past seven starts.
Some of Shield’s struggles can be pinned on a disappointing Rays defense that has been weakened by the absence of Evan Longoria. Six different players have made at least nine starts at third base for the Rays this year. Members of this group include Drew Sutton and Brooks Conrad.