This trip to Philly has a different feel
Four years ago, the Braves came to Philadelphia in late July with their postseason hopes on life support. They were 6 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets in the National League East race and 10 1/2 games behind a Brewers team that was leading the Wild Card race with the help of a guy named Ben Sheets.
If there was any question about what the Braves should do before the 2008 Trade Deadline, it was answered as they went 1-2 while scoring at least eight runs in each of those three games against the Phillies.
After the series concluded, the <i> Atlanta-Journal Constitution’s </i> Carroll Rogers told veteran Philadelphia scribe Paul Hagen, “I would hate to cover 81 games in this ballpark.”
Hagan, who is now with MLB.com, smiled and replied, “I would hate to cover 162 games with your team’s bullpen.”
A few days later, the Braves traded Mark Teixeira to the Angels and a few months later, the Phillies were celebrating a World Series title.
In the three years that has since followed, every Braves-Phillies series has been viewed as one that could have a significant influence on the NL East race or Atlanta’s postseason hopes. With the Braves fighting hard to catch the Nationals, the same could be said about this week’s series in Philadelphia. But it will feel a little different than the ones we have witnessed over the past few years.
Since getting swept by the Braves for the second time in a span of three weeks, the Phillies have won four of six games and lost three veterans — Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence and Joe Blanton — via trades and their most valuable player — Carlos Ruiz –via injury. Sitting 16 games back in the division race and 12 1/2 games back in the Wild Card race, the Phillies are likely going to be left out of the postseason for the first time since 2006. But that does not mean they can not spend the next two months playing the spoiler role.
This week’s pitching matchups certainly do not create much cause for concern. The Braves will not have to deal with Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee.
TONIGHT: Sheets (3-1, 1.46) vs. Vance Worley (6-6,3.63)
TUESDAY: Mike Minor (6-7, 5.01) vs. Cole Hamels (11-6, 3.34)
WEDNESDAY: Tim Hudson (11-4,3.45) vs. Kyle Kendrick (4-9, 4.45)
Sheets limited the Phillies to one run in six innings on July 27 and then ran into some bad luck during a three-run first inning against the Marlins last Wednesday. He ended up allowing four runs (three earned) in six innings during that 104-pitch effort against Miami.
Understandably many fans and critics around the baseball world were interested to see how durable Sheets was when he ended his two-year retirement to join the Braves since the All-Star break. Well, he has completed at least six innings in each of his four starts and already established himself as a key part of the Atlanta rotation.
Hudson has completed at least seven innings in three of his past four starts and 5 2/3 innings in the other. Hudson (May 4-25) and Brandon Beachy (April 15-May 22) are the only other Braves pitcher to complete at least six innings in at least four straight starts this year.
When Worley last faced the Braves on July 8, he surrendered a two-run home run to Dan Uggla and was charged with three runs in six innings.
SMALL SAMPLE SIZE ALERT: Uggla has three hits, including two home runs, in seven career at-bats against Worley.
UGLY SIGNIFICANT SAMPLE SIZE ALERT: As many of you likely remember, Uggla was hitting .174 before begging a 33-game hitting streak in early July last year. This year, he is trending in a different direction. But the numbers are not all that much different than they were around this time last year.
Uggla’s statistics through the Braves’ first 108 games:
2011: .206 BA .278 OBP .402 SLG 20 home runs
2012: .209 BA .342 OBP .360 SLG 12 home runs
If you want to get a sense about how maddening Uggla’s season has been, he has recorded a hit in six of his past eight games and batted .208 (6-for-29) with four doubles during this span.