Go back to Atlanta, mutts. Go back to your converted Olympic stadium that gets jammed 1/2 full every night, go back to your tomahawk chopping SEC fans, and drink in the fact that you can’t score off Philly’s starters and your manager is absolutely running your lights out bullpen into the ground. I know the arms out there are young, but I think James Andrews is going to have his hands full in the near future. When guys are on pace for 90 appearances, you have issues.
I think that is one fundamental difference that we can take from the weekend series. The Phillies were in control of the game late on Sunday, but when Atlanta couldn’t go to their top guns the Phillies pounded out season-high hits and runs numbers. A game with a bit of tension turned into a laugher. If you are going to build your team on pitching, you have to have guys that can go deep into games. Derek Lowe throws about 20 pitches an inning. Braves starters have piled up a grand total of 3 complete games. Now, you’re probably going to come back at me and say that the Phillies starters are throwing too many innings. Well, that’s not the same thing in my opinion. The Phillies starters have prepared themselves for this workload. No reliever can prepare for 90 outings.
And, it’s going to be difficult for the Braves to rest their key relievers because they play an inordinate amount of close games and they don’t score very many runs. You’d have to expect that their bullpen performance will trail off in the 2nd half, so instead of worrying about what would happen if Jayson Heyward and Dan Uggla got hot, maybe Braves fans should be worried about what would happen if their top-4 relief pitchers can’t pitch to a 2.00 ERA from now until eternity.
The Phillies offensive outburst on Sunday proved they can still hit bad pitching, and it proved that Raul Ibanez is still a streaky hitter, but I doubt it will be a springboard toward a huge 2nd half. Although, there are positive signs. If you take out Saturday’s game–this is probably the best stretch of 2 weeks the Phils have had since they opened the season. The Phillies are actually averaging just over 6 runs a game in July (that includes two 14-run outbursts and two 1-run face plants), and a portion of the line up (Rollins/Brown/Mayberry) seems to be trending up. And, they’ve done all of this without much help from their most consistent hitter to date, Shane Victorino and without the hobbled Placido Polanco.
If we’re looking for a team that might play even better in the 2nd half, I’d start with the Phillies. They aren’t going to score 6 runs a game, but really since Utley has been back things haven’t been that bleak. If they can get healthy and if they can get a workable platoon going in the outfield (either Mayberry/Ibanez or Traded for Bat/Ibanez or Both), you’d have to expect a more productive offense in the 2nd half, especially if Ryan Howard can go on some version of his typical August/September run.
This is certainly a glass half full look at the Phillies, but on pace for 100 wins, what other outlook can you have? That’s the team you’re afraid of? Atlanta? After they scored 7 runs in three games, after they showed they are equally inept at hitting left-handed pitching? Yes, Hanson pitched a great game. He’s a front-line starter. It happens. It could conceivably happen in the playoffs, but if the Phillies and Braves meet the Braves will have to win 4 of 7. A tall order. They’d also have to get by the NLDS. Is this where I mention Atlanta’s historical uncanny ability to lose playoff series?
In summation, enjoy the break, Phillies fans. Give your brain a 4-day rest. It probably needs it.
Speaking of the break, isn’t it a shame that baseball is stuck with the home run derby? It’s not a sport that really lends itself to skill competition. It’s too bad they can’t put in some type of temporary wall and have guys trying to hit bombs over a 50-foot monster, and we obviously can’t do anything like fastest pitch, or fastest runner or any modification of what the other sports do. We’re left with guys taking BP. The first round is always good for some oohs and ahhs, but that’s about it. If anyone out there has an idea for an All-Star game event for baseball, I’d love to hear it. All-Star week needs a breath of life.
And, in conclusion, US Women’s soccer 2 wins away from the Women’s El Cupo Worldo. Riveting and Captivating had a baby on Sunday afternoon. That game was wild. Clearly, I didn’t actually see it, but Marta can go commiserate with the Braves.