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.

14 Comments

The Braves and Uggla will be fine. Probably take 2 out of 3 this time around.

I think a point brought up during yesterday’s broadcast deserves some more attention… while Uggla is obviously struggling, he’s #1 in the league in walks, and that .342 OBP Mark mentioned is the 35th best in the league. His 4.22 pitches per plate appearance is 2nd in the NL, walks per plate appearance, .150 – 2nd in the NL.

I’m not exactly sure what to make of this. We’re not paying him for walks, but he’s not the automatic out a .200 BA usually indicates.

Serious question: At what point do you pull Dan Uggla? A lineup with Prado at 2nd and Reed Johnson in LF is just better at this point. Don’t we want the best lineup night-in night-out? I know Uggs can get hot (see last year), but waiting around for tha t to happen is like waiting for water to boil.

Yea… you’re the only person asking this question. I understand giving him a loose leash given his track record… but his leash is extending from ATL up here to NYC.

We’re in the middle of a good stretch of games for him to try and turn things around – after the Phils we get the Mets and 4 vs the Padres…. But after that we get the Dodgers, Nats and Giants. It’s worth discussing if he’s the best man in the lineup to face these teams… the $13MM per year salary shouldn’t factor in.

Here’s to hoping he goes on a tear and we can stop talking about this…

I say next year ship him and Hanson to Houston for either Justin Maxwell or Ben Francisco

I vote everyone ignores every trade proposal this idiot comes up with. Maybe he will go away….

Not likely. He’s been at it for 3+ years.

If the Phillies look like garbage in a home game and everyone is there to see it, does that mean it’s a “better” loss?

Going to post this on the Phillie blog but thought you guys should read it too… since all Pherris and other Phrillie fans can talk trash on is attendance. Looks like Citizens Bank Park is not immune to apathy and fare-weather fans. First sign of a losing season and all of the sudden there’s no consecutive sellout streak. http://articles.philly.com/2012-08-06/sports/33066160_1_vance-worley-charlie-manuel-ryan-howard

Well, one thing I hate about pherris’ attendance comments is that they’re spouted through tears of realization that his beloved, incredibly expensive team is 17 games out of first place with any glimmer of hope for the playoffs fading rapidly.

HOWEVER, game attendances is not really what any of us should be worried about. Sure, lots of money is made at the gate and on overpriced beers… but it’s all about TV money, and our TV contract will have us dropping lower and lower down the ranks of MLB team salaries for the next couple of decades. There’s absolutely no arguing against that (unless someone knows how to get us out of that contract).

Unless the Braves farm system does something truly remarkable on a consistent basis (churning out solid players at every position at a rate that beats the players who leave after 5 years), things will look a little gloomy at Turner field in 10-15 years. True fans will stick around, but many will fade. So if you live in the Atlanta area and have a chance to see THIS team, Chipper’s last hurrah, I suggest getting your ass out there and doing it. As often as possible.

I should add that most of this information was read on the interwebs, so I’d love to be wrong about any of this. Actually, please.. someone tell me I’m wrong… ha.

There’s a lot of money to be made on TV, no doubt. It’s a cash cow. Braves have the market on the southeast as far as baseball goes. There’s a lucrative TV deal in the works, I’m sure. Most teams are following suit.

Looks like Bill beat me to it… I’ll let him enjoy it.

The Frillies are pulling off the ever so rare First to Worst.

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