Tag: Atlanta Braves

Not saying it’s a big deal, I’m just saying if the Braves win the series somebody better make sure Chicken Little is ready for his close-up

The Phillies have played fewer games than the Braves this more and won more (55-33 for the Phils and 53-36 for the Braves). They are scoring more runs per game (4.16 to 4.02) and allowing fewer (3.27 to 3.30). So what could be the problem?

Maybe nothing. But there’s this — here are the standings in the NL East since the end of April:

ATL 40 21 .656 - 248 203
PHI 37 25 .597 3 1/2 246 200
NYM 34 27 .557 6 273 248
WSN 33 30 .524 8 249 241
FLA 24 39 .381 17 226 295

The Phils ended April at 18-8 while the Braves were 13-15. Atlanta has been 3 1/2 games better since. Since April they have outscored the Phils, plating about 4.07 runs per game while the Phils scored about 3.97. The Phillies have still been better at preventing runs, allowing around 3.23 runs per game while the Braves have allowed about 3.33 runs per game. While Atlanta has won 3 1/2 more games than the Phils, the Phils run differential has actually been a tiny bit better since the end of April. The Phillies are at +.742 per game while Atlanta is at +.738.

Finally, I don’t think there are a lot of people who think the Mets are going to win the NL East this season, but it’s worth nothing they’re seven games over .500 in this time period and have scored way more runs than either the Phils or Braves. So let’s hope they don’t get any pitching.

Lidge had his second straight good outing in relief at Single-A Lakewood last night. He’s now allowed two hits and struck out two in two scoreless innings.

Victorino was voted into the All-Star game, but may not play.

JA saves the da

Sooner or later, and probably sooner, JA Happ is going to struggle. Opposing hitters are going to adjust and hit him hard, really hard, and his numbers will explode. Sometime in the next two or three years someone is sure to say that he just doesn’t have the mental makeup to succeed at this level. But if you watched last night, that’s going to be a tough one to swallow. In last night’s game in Atlanta, with 11 games left to play in the season and the Phils clinging to the slimmest of leads in the NL East, Happ tossed six shutout innings to beat the Braves and earn the first win of his career.

The Phillies beat the Atlanta Braves last night, winning 6-1 to improve to 85-67 on the season. They are 18 games over .500 for the first time this year and have won six games in a row for the first time this year. They remain a half game ahead of the Mets in the NL East.

JA Happ got the start for the Phillies and went six shutout innings, allowing three hits and a walk. One of the hits went for extra-bases, a double, and he struck out three.

Casey Kotchman’s double against Happ in the fifth last night is the only extra-base hit that Phillies pitchers have allowed in the first two games of the series.

He started the first up 4-0. Chipper Jones singled with two outs. Brian McCann flew to right for the third out.

Jeff Francoeur singled with two outs in the second. Happ struck out Josh Anderson for the third out.

Happ set the Braves down in order in the third and again in the fourth.

Casey Kotchman started the fifth with a double. Francoeur was next and he hit a high foul ball behind third that Burrell made a nice play on after a long run, backhanding the ball and fighting off a fan. Anderson flew to center for the second out and Yunel Escobar hit for the pitcher Jair Jurrjens and drew a walk. Happ got Martin Prado to ground to short to leave both runners stranded.

He threw a 1-2-3 sixth.

Durbin pitched the seventh with the Phils up 4-0. He allowed a one-out single to Kotchman, but struck out Francoeur for the second out and got Anderson to ground out to first for the third.

He came back for the eighth with the Phils up 5-0. He got the first two before Kelly Johnson singled to center. Chipper was next and Durbin walked him. Romero came in to pitch to the lefty McCann and got McCann to pop to the mound to end the inning.

I don’t think I would have brought Durbin back for a second inning with a five-run lead. Romero has turned into a one-out guy — he hasn’t gotten more than one out in any of his last four appearances.

Condrey started the ninth with the Phils up 6-0. Francoeur singled with two outs and took second on defensive indifference. Greg Norton hit for the pitcher Blaine Boyer and singled into center. Francoeur scored and it was 6-1. Blanco flew to left for the third out.

The pen went three innings, allowing a run on four hits and a walk. Durbin pitched for the second straight day and threw 34 pitches. That seems unnecessary. Condrey threw 16 pitches, Romero two.

The Phillies lineup against righty Jair Jurrjens went (1) Rollins (2) Utley (3) Werth (4) Howard (5) Burrell (6) Victorino (7) Feliz (8) Ruiz. Big surprise to me to see Burrell in the lineup against the righty with the Phils expecting to see Hampton (it looks now like they will see another lefty, Jo-Jo Reyes) today. Werth third again with Victorino sixth. Feliz plays third and Ruiz catches.

Rollins grounded to first to start the game, but Utley and Werth followed with back-to-back walks before Howard laced a single into right. Utley scored to put the Phils up 1-0 with Werth holding at second. With Burrell at the plate, Werth stole third and McCann’s throw hit him and went into left field, allowing Werth to score and put the Phils up 2-0. Howard moved to second on the play and held second as Burrell flew to right for the second out. Victorino singled, moving Howard to third, and then stole second without a throw. Ruiz got behind 0-2 but hit a 2-2 pitch back through the middle for a two-run single. 4-0. Happ struck out for the third out.

Big two-out hit for Ruiz.

The Phils went 1-2-3 in the second.

Howard walked to start the third. Burrell was next and lined a ball to second that Johnson caught. Johnson threw to second and doubled Howard off. Victorino flew to left for the third out.

Ruiz walked with one out in the fourth and Happ bunted him to second. Rollins reached on an infield single that moved Ruiz to third and stole second, but Utley struck out swinging to leave the runners stranded at second and third.

Werth started the fifth with a single, but Howard hit into a double-play behind him. Burrell flew to right for the third out.

Victorino started the sixth with an infield single. Feliz lined to short for the first out and Ruiz hit into a double-play to end the frame.

Utley walked with two outs in the seventh, but Werth struck out to leave him stranded.

Burrell singled with one out in the eighth and Bruntlett ran for him at first. Victorino followed with a single that moved Bruntlett to third. Feliz was next and he hit a double-play ball to second, but Johnson thought there were two outs and threw to first. Bruntlett scored from third to put the Phillies up 5-0. Ruiz flew to right for the third out.

Stairs hit for Romero with righty Blaine Boyer on the mound and hit a 1-0 pitch out to right to put the Phils up 6-0. Werth doubled after Rollins and Utley went down and Howard was walked intentionally. With two outs and men on first and second, Bruntlett struck out to end the frame.

Rollins was 1-for-5 with his 43rd stolen base.

Utley 0-for-3 with two walks.

Werth 2-for-4 with a double and a walk. 5-for-8 with two walks in the first two games of the set.

Howard 1-for-3 with two walks and an RBI. Also 5-for-8 with two walks in the first two games of the set.

Burrell 1-for-4.

Victorino 3-for-4. He’s 10-for-his-last-13. Really he is.

Feliz 0-for-3 with a walk and an RBI. 0-for-his-last-11, but surely in the lineup tonight against the lefty Reyes.

Ruiz was 1-for-3 with a walk and two RBI. He has more RBI in the last two games than he did in all of July and August combined.

Cole Hamels (13-9, 3.11) faces lefty Jo-Jo Reyes (3-11, 5.50) tonight. Righties are hitting 307/387/498 against Reyes. He has an 8.48 ERA and a 2.13 ratio since the All-Star break. In 16 2/3 innings against the Phils this season he’s thrown to a 7.56 ERA and a 1.68 ratio. Coste is 2-for-2 with a homer against him, Burrell 4-for-8 with two doubles and a home run. Hamels pitched on Saturday and held the Brewers to two runs in 6 1/3 innings, both of which scored on a fly ball that Burrell misplayed into a double.

Ready, set, Brave

The Atlanta Braves start May at 12-15. Colin from Braves Blast took the time to answer some questions about what’s going on with the Braves these days.

What do you see as the most significant developments for the Braves since the start of the season?

There are several significant developments since the start of the season. First, Bobby Cox and Frank Wren look like magicians trading Edgar Renteria away. Both Jair Jurrjens, whom the Braves got in return for Renteria, and Yunel Escobar, who replaced Renteria at short, are playing like regulars. Jurrjens may be the most stable arm on the pitching staff right now, and Escobar is batting .297 with 11 RBIs and is showing great plate discipline for a youngster with 14 walks. Second, we’ve seen our starting rotation show its age a LOT faster than we thought it would. Smoltz is on the DL for the second time, Glavine just got activated from the DL, and Hampton is being… well… Hampton. This has proven Jair Jurrjens to be even more valuable. If you haven’t seen him pitch yet, you don’t want to face him – his two or four seam fastball gets up to 96, his slider is good, and his changeup as absolutely devastating.

Even with all the injuries, the Braves are among the top teams in the NL in runs scored. They have also been among the best teams in the NL overall at preventing runs. Still, their record is probably not the start the many fans were expecting or hoping for. Any thoughts on why a team that seems to be able to both score and prevent runs so effectively is having trouble getting wins?

Our offense is very, very potent. There’s no doubt about that. And we can prevent runs too (sometimes, if the bullpen is on) – but the killer is our offense is either very hot or very cold. As a result, we’ve lost a LOT of one-run games. We’re 0-9 this season in one-run games. It’s quite frustrating that we haven’t been able to pull one of those out yet. Even if just under half of those go our way, we’d be tied for first in the division. The top of the order really is a catalyst for the offense, and Kelly Johnson at leadoff is a very streaky hitter. Mark Teixeira is just warming up for the season with his right-handed swing still not being as hot as his left-handed swing. Once he gets going, the offense will be even better.

Are the Braves going to be able to overcome the loss of Peter Moylan in the bullpen? How will they adjust to his absence?

The loss of Moylan is a blow – we labeled him as one of the main five keys to the Braves bullpen being strong this season. That said, it’s not something we can’t recover from. Jorge Campillo has been strong in middle relief for the Braves since we brought him up from AAA Richmond. Manny Acosta is also working out well and picking up some innings. The bigger key is getting back Rafael Soriano from the DL – he’s had elbow tendinitis issues, and we need a strong, healthy closer. If Smoltz can’t return to the starting rotation, he’s said he’d go close for us – and we all know he’s not someone anyone wants to face in the ninth.

Is Mark Kotsay going to play well enough to keep his job in center field for the whole season? Are there any position players in danger of losing regular playing time?

Kotsay is not in any danger of losing his starting job – though he did have some back issues (uh oh) that kept him out of the lineup last week a couple times. Not good to see. That said, Matt Diaz was benched a few games in a row last week and Gregor Blanco got the start in left field. He’s since rebounded and is batting .295. I don’t think anyone else is in danger of losing their starting spot.

With Glavine and Hampton returning from injuries it looks like the rotation for the time being is Smoltz/Hudson/Glavine/Jurrjens/Hampton with Chuck James as the sixth guy who will come up from the minors if one of them goes down. Is that how you see the rotation? Is there anyone else in the mix?

The lineup no longer has Smoltz at the front, at least not for 15 days. He has tendinitis in his biceps and an inflamed rotator cuff. So now it’s Hudson/Glavine/Jurrjens/James/Jeff Bennett. If (big if – nobody counts on him anymore) Hampton comes back from his rehab starts in one piece, he’ll bump Bennett back to the ‘pen. The other arms we have that can start include Buddy Carlyle and Jo-Jo Reyes. Jo-Jo has great stuff in the minors but he can’t make the transition from pitching down there to pitching in Atlanta. We’ve got to get Smoltzie healthy and keep Glavine healthy. Hudson hasn’t been lights out recently either, which isn’t good. I know I’ve said it before, but watch this Jurrjens kid. He’s only 22, but he pitches like he’s been in the big leagues for much longer. Nobody has anything but good stuff to stay about him.

Thanks a lot to Colin. If you don’t read it regularly, be sure to check out Braves Blast, where today they are discussing the possibility that Smoltz returns to the team as a reliever.

Colin also wrote this morning to point out that since he wrote his answers yesterday Hampton has re-strained his pectoral muscle in a rehab start. Always something.

I also answered some questions from Colin about the Phils here.

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