Coming into the weekend, the Braves were riding a high. They were winners of 8 of their last 10 and had dropped their magic number to just 10. That high continued up until the Braves headed to Citizens Bank Park. Atlanta suffered three losses in three games over the weekend to the Phillies and overall have a four game losing streak. Although the magic number was reduced to nine because of the Friday night Nationals loss, many Braves fans are now wondering if this team is suited to make a deep run into October this season.
Friday night’s game was a good old fashioned pitchers duel. Mike Minor dazzled for the Braves, allowing 2 earned over 7 strong innings while striking out 9. However, Minor was rewarded for that great work by losing his 6th game of the season. Mike was out dueled by another fantastic left hander, Cliff Lee who’s only blemish came in the third inning when Andrelton Simmons launched a ball over the left field wall. Other than that home run, the Braves managed just two other hits. With no walks, 10 strikeouts, and just 3 hits this looked like the inconsistent Braves team we were used to seeing in May and June.
Although the bats woke up a bit in Game 2, it was the pitching staff this time that was unable to hold it together. Alex Wood was roughed up once again allowing 9 hits and 4 earned runs over just 4.2 innings. The Braves jumped on the Phillies early when Freddie Freeman hit a two run single in the 3rd inning to increase his RBI total to 96 on the season. Wood quickly surrendered the lead in the bottom half of the third and the Braves trailed the rest of the way until the ninth. That was when Andrelton Simmons once again launched a two out, two run home run over the left field wall to tie the game at 5. The wind was quickly drained from our sails when in the bottom half of the ninth, Freddy Garcia allowed Freddy Galvis to launch a walk off home run and beat the Braves once again 6-5.
The series finale once again was a pitchers duel between two left handers, very similar to game 1. This time it was Cole Hamels and Paul Maholm doing the work on the mound. Maholm allowed two runs in the first and got off to a very shaky start, however quickly bounced back to go six innings and allow just those two earned runs. The Braves offense after falling behind 2-0 scratched and clawed their way back into it. Well, actually I should say Evan Gattis scratched and clawed his way back into the game for his team. El Oso Blanco launched two solo home runs off of Cole Hamels to muster all of Atlanta’s offense on Sunday afternoon. It literally was all of Atlanta’s offense, because those two solo home runs happened to be the only two hits that the Braves would have. A Darin Ruf home run in the bottom of the 8th off of David Carpenter sealed the deal and the Phillies completed the sweep.
Do I really have to name one?
If I do, it would be Andrelton Simmons. On the series, Simba was 4 for 11 with 2 HR’s, 3 RBI’s, and 3 runs scored. He also had the biggest hit of the series which gave the Braves a nice chance to win the game on Saturday night before the bullpen coughed the game up in the bottom of the ninth. Andrelton now has his offensive numbers up to .251 with 15 homers and 52 runs batted in on the season. That is a very solid contribution from the sure to be gold glover at shortstop.
Dan Uggla, plain and simple. In a series where the Braves faced 2 left handed starters, you expect the guy who was brought in 3 years ago to be your left handed pitching killer to step up. Unfortunately for Dan, it appears that the eye procedure he underwent may have made his hitting worse. On the series Dan was 0-6 with 3 K’s and 2 walks. He was pulled from Saturday night’s game in favor of Eliot Johnson, who came in for defensive purposes in the bottom of the sixth inning. This is not the guy we paid for and he has fallen into some really bad hitting habits. It’s unfortunate because he is a likable guy but I believe the Braves will have to take a hard look at who they want playing 2nd base for them heading into the post season.
For a team that still holds home field throughout the National League playoffs, the Braves sure didn’t look like it this weekend. They still hold a 2 game lead in that regard and look to beat up on the Marlins down in Miami for four games. The upcoming series in Florida will be a great chance for the Braves to get back on track and head home looking to clinch the division. To make a deep run this season however, the Braves cannot afford three game stretched like they had this past weekend. It will undoubtedly be interesting to see how the team responds following their worst stretch in over a few months.