(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien this series.)
Well it’s Memorial Day, it’s the Phillies, and we’ve got a lot going on today at the ol’ ballyard. So we’ll start with the Phillies, hanging onto the NL East by a half-game and a least a couple more hours. Wait, did I get ahead of myself?
Well, Tommy Hanson is on the mound against Joe Blanton, whose 5.63 ERA is highest among Phillies starters and who has made only five starts this season while battling oblique problems.
Hanson is due for a clean outing after his eight-run nightmare here to end the Braves’ last home stand and his uphill outing in Florida, when he matched a career-high with five walks and hit a batter but still held on to beat the Marlins, allowing them two runs in six innings.
The Phillies’ recent struggles have been pretty well documented, but I’ll go ahead and break them down here for you:
Since they opened the month of May by going 12-3, they have lost eight of their last 12 games. In that time they’ve been outscored 43-19, while averaging only 1.6 runs per game. They were held to one or no runs eight times and shut out five times. They hit .195 (74-for-379) in that span, including .163 (13-for-80) with runners in scoring position.
As for the five shutouts in their last eight games, the last team to do that was the 1992 Cubs.
Their pitching has still been good – um, there was a certain perfect game by Roy Halladay on Saturday mixed in there. The Phillies ERA over those 12 games is 3.29. And with that good pitching, the Phillies managed to take two out of three from the Marlins over the weekend, even though they scored only four runs in three games including one in Halladay’s perfect game.
Nice that the Braves will be missing him again for the second straight series. They lost to him 2-0 on April 21, while dropping two of three to the Phillies at Turner Field. They didn’t see him in Philly May 7-9 but dropped two of three in that series anyway.
This is a different team facing the Phillies this time, one with a lot of confidence and the momentum of five wins in a row. One more win and the Braves will have a season-best winning streak and be sitting in first place for the first time since the first week of the season.
By the way, the Braves are 7-0 in day games at Turner Field, coming into today’s game. Wow.
Brian McCann is back in the lineup for the first time since Wednesday, having taken four days for that sore quadriceps to rest.
Jair Jurrjens threw his second bullpen today, mixing in all his pitches among his 45 and looked good by all accounts. He will continue to throw bullpens onto the upcoming road trip and if all goes well he’ll head out on a minor league assignment from Arizona early next week.
Even if the hamstring holds up fine, he’ll need at least two minor league starts, which would mean it’s still a late-June proposition for his return. But as Bobby Cox said this morning, “It’ll be like making a major trade, won’t it?”
One other interesting tidbit from this morning, Cox made a point to watch Nate McLouth’s round of bp and talk to him afterward. He can be a hands’ on manager when times call for it, and McLouth seemed eager for his feedback.
The day’s events
The Braves are 16-6 at Turner Field this season and today, weather permitting, will have a pretty special pre-game ceremony honoring veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korean and World War II. There will be 250 veterans participating in all, five singled out for special recognition.
There will be parachuting from the Silver Wings of Fort Benning, a moment of silence and a 21-gun salute. And oh yeah, the Beach Boys are playing after the game. I’m told they will play in light rain. If it gets bad, they’ll re-schedule.
So far the weather has held up fine this morning, and I’m not sure what the afternoon will bring. Scattered showers are what weather.com is predicting and just trying to ask about it in the dugout got me blank stares. I think it’s been a long weekend of waiting around these parts, while I was off resting and relaxing and enjoying a crawfish boil with friends, among other things. And I actually ate a couple bites of crawfish. See how adventurous I am?
1. Ross Gload RF
2. Greg Dobbs 3B
3. Chase Utley 2B
4. Ryan Howard 1B
5. Shane Victorino CF
6. Raul Ibanez LF
7. Carlos Ruiz C
8. Wilson Valdez SS
9. Joe Blanton P
1. Martin Prado 2B
2. Jason Heyward RF
3. Chipper Jones 3B
4. Brian McCann C
5. Troy Glaus 1B
6. Eric Hinske LF
7. Yunel Escobar SS
8. Nate McLouth CF
9. Tommy Hanson P