Last night the Red Sox who have been significantly worse this month than the Braves decided in Game 2 of a double header at Yankee Stadium that enough was enough and they would not be beaten again. They were down most of the game but forced extra innings and eventually won when Jacoby Ellsbury hit his third homer of the double header (off Scott Proctor, how does that guy keep getting hired?) to put them in front for good. A 14 inning second game of a Sunday double header and the Red Sox were still giving it everything they had. Embarrassed by their performance this month and determined not to lose, particularly to the Yankees. What about the Braves?
Meanwhile the Braves return to Turner Field today after sleepwalking through Sunday’s second straight loss to Washington as Ross Detwiler and the bullpen shut them out on 4 hits. Saturday Chien-Ming Wang and that bullpen held the Braves had six hits and would have shut them out but for a solo Freddie Freeman homer. If the Braves are embarrassed by their play this month they haven’t said so. They keep “tipping their hat” – gawd I hate that condescending, question sidestepping, worn out cliché – to the other team and go about their business.
They enter tonight’s game knowing the only way to guarantee a post season birth is to sweep the NL East champion and odds on World Series favorite Philadelphia Phillies in the final three games of the season. To do that they will ask Randall Delgado, Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson to beat Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and either Cole Hamels, Vance Worley or Kyle Kendrick. No hill for a climber right? Maybe so, but are the Braves climbers?
The offense this year has been sporadic and disjointed and it’s been worse of late. They produce runs in bunches when the other team makes errors but can’t seem to hit a sacrifice fly when needed. The Braves have scored three runs or less in 11 of their last 20 games. They are 1-10 in those games and 7-13 in that stretch. They will need more than three runs a game to beat the Phillies.
The last time the Braves won two games in a row was September 13 and 14.
The last time they won three in a row was August 21, 22 and 23.
The Braves are 6-9 against the Phillies in 2011 but the Phils have out scored them 87-42.
The Braves are have a line of .225/.286/.339 with 9 homers against the Phillies.
The Phils are .256/.317.390 and 13 homers when facing Braves pitching.
We beat the Phillies best early in the year – Lee (3.29 ERA , 1.134 WHIP vs Braves) twice and Roy Halladay once –but things haven’t gone that well lately. We miss Halladay this week, but face a fresh Oswalt -1-0 with a 1.154 WHIP against the Braves – and a rejuvenated Hamels – 2-1, 2.57 ERA and 0.893 WHIP.
The good news is those starters are probably going to be in the game for about five innings then the bullpen will take over as Charlie Manuel sets his rotation up for the NLDS. The bullpen is not the Phillies finest asset and the Braves have scored a lot of runs from the 6th inning on. Okay, numbers are numbers but can the Braves do this? Yes they absolutely can. A better question is, will they? That really depends on how badly they want it.
The talent is certainly their even if it’s been hiding lately when the chips are down. Do they want it badly enough to leave everything on the field like the Red Sox last night? That will hasn’t been evident in key players lately either. If however that spark appears, maybe they can force a few mistakes and take advantage of a team that doesn’t want injury or exhaustion in games meaningless to them hurting their World Series chances. The Phillies will not lay down for us, they just as soon beat us into submission as a warmup and warning to future opponents. I doubt however they really want to go 14 innings against anyone five days away from NLDS game one.
Whether the Braves get a few breaks and win depends on how they play. If, like Saturday and Sunday, there’s no fire, no overt sense that they will not be beaten today, no sign that they care, I doubt it. If we see a 1991 mentality, the ‘we will not go without a fight’ Sid Bream lumbering to home on worn out legs dedication to win, we just might!