Yes, it’s only a series in July. However, the series between the Phillies and Braves is important because of the fact the Braves are only 2.5 games behind the Phillies in the standings. One would think that having the best record in baseball would mean a monster lead in the division, but in fact, the opposite has happened. The Braves have won 9 out of 10, having swept the Mariners, Rockies, and taking two out of three from the O’s. Currently, the Bravos have third best record baseball and have gained a game and half in the standings since the month started. The Phillies haven’t even gotten cold, taking two out of three in their last five series, can’t they just sweep one team? please? (That just shows how hot the Braves have been.) The Phils counter their hot rival with their three aces, Halladay, Lee, and Hamels while the Braves counter with Beachy, Hanson (Should be an All-Star), and Lowe.
Game 1 of the series features Brandon Beachy (3-1, 3.23 ERA) vs. Roy Halladay (11-3, 2.44 ERA). This will be Beachy’s 15th career start, but 5th against the Phillies. In his ten other starts, he has an ERA of 2.63, but against the Phillies, his ERA rises to 5. Halladay, on the other hand, owns the Braves. In his time as a Phillie, he is 3-1 with 1.91 ERA. His only loss came this year in Atlanta on May 15th, a complete game loss, where he gave up to a solo home run to Dan Uggla in the 8th inning. Uggla and Brian McCann (who absolutely destroys the Phillies) have had success against Halladay, both hitting over .350 against him.
Game 2 of the series will have Tommy Hanson (10-4, 2.52 ERA) vs. Cliff Lee (9-6, 2.92 ERA). Hanson comes in red hot, having gone 5-0 with a 1.97 ERA in his last five starts. He has had some success in his career against the Phillies with a 2.45 ERA, but only a 1-2 record to show for it. Only Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco have had great success against Hanson, each hitting .333, but both coming in limted at bats. After Cliff Lee’s magnificent June where he was almost perfect (1 earned run in 42 innings of work…woah.), the wheels feel apart in his first July start. Against Toronto, Lee went into the 8th inning with a 4-3 lead. Three home runs and 1,266 feet later (According to ESPN Stats and Info), the Blue Jays were up 7-4 and would go on to win by the same tally. In his career, Lee has been pretty awful against the Braves, going 1-3 with an ERA over 6. In his 2 starts against them this year, Cliff is 0-2 with an ERA hovering close to 8. On paper at least, this game seems like the Braves best chance at winning .
Game 3 of the series counters with the veteran Derek Lowe (5-6, 4.21 ERA) and Cole Hamels (10-4, 2.40 ERA). Prior to winning his last two starts, Lowe’s last win came against the Phillies in May. It hasn’t been a great season for Lowe, but in his two starts against the Phillies, he’s 1-1 with a 1.38 ERA. Against the rest of baseball, Lowe’s ERA is 4.50. Carlos Ruiz and Chase Utley have had the most success against Lowe. Ruiz is hitting .368 against Lowe, while Utley is hitting at .444 clip. Since Hamels’ first start where he was blasted by the Mets for 6 runs in 2 2/3 innings, he’s been 10-3 with an ERA of 2.01. One could make the case, he’s been the best pitcher on the staff this year (Blasphemy! or is it?) but that’s a different post for another day. Hamels is 1-1 with 3.15 ERA against the Braves this year. Chipper Jones has the most success for the Braves against Hamels (shocking right?) with a .313 average.
Any guesses who’s been the best player for the Braves the last week? Not Chipper…or Heyward…or Uggla…it’s Freddie Freeman. Freeman, who hit first career home run off of Halladay last year, is hitting .364 with 4 home runs and OPS of 1.472 in the last seven days. It seems like Mr. Freeman is coming into his own. Dom Brown is hitting .364 over the last week with a 6 game hitting streak. While Dom has rebounded at the plate, his defensive lack of skills and baserunning lack of ability would give Tom Emanski a heart attack. John Mayberry Jr. hit two home runs in the Phils 7-6 loss on Wednesday once again proving how he is not better than Michael Martinez in any way. The Braves have four all-stars in McCann (Last year’s All-Star MVP), Jones, Venters, and Jurrjens (who should start for the NL). The Phillies have 5 all-stars in Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Polanco, and Victorino.
Braves- Martin Prado is on the 15 day DL with a staph infection. Currently, he’s on a rehab assignment which means he won’t play in this series. Prado, in 61 career games against the Phillies, is hitting .330. He is likely to return after the All-Star break.
Phillies- Shane Victorino, who was just voted to the All-Star team, was placed on the DL with a right thumb injury. It is not believed to be a serious injury and he should be be back soon after the All-Star break. Perhaps MLB can right a wrong and place the other centerfielder from Pennsylvania in the All-Star game as his replacement, no not you, Michael Martinez. Placido Polanco and his .216 average since April are unsure about playing in this series. Polanco’s back has been bothering him for a long time so he didn’t play in the last two Marlins games. Polanco should probably not play in this series and take the All-Star break off to give his back enough time to recover for the 2nd half, but Polanco is insistent on playing this weekend and in the All-Star game. Ryan Madson threw a bullpen session on Monday and is likely to be back after the break.
Prediction on the series-
Phillies win tonight (if they play) and Sunday, take 2 out of 3, head into the All-star break on 57-34.