(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien this series.)
Philadelphia – The Rocky statue is still here. Just saw it a little while ago. (Sorry didn’t take any photos.) There were still a few boats rowing down the Schuylkill River (Yes, I had to look up how to spell that). I’m sure there’s a line at DiNic’s right about now (No, I didn’t plan to wait in it). A few things haven’t changed since last we came to Philadelphia.
That would go for the city, not the team. Since the Braves last came to town and swept a series from the Phillies July 6-8, and even since the series sweep at home against the Phillies to start their last homestand, a lot has changed. The Phillies traded center fielder Shane Victorino and right-hander Joe Blanton to the Dodgers, and right fielder Hunter Pence to the Giants.
Left-hander Cliff Lee was put on waivers and reportedly claimed by the Dodgers but nothing came of it and those waivers expired Sunday afternoon. So if you want to call that status quo, there you go. Lee pitched on Sunday, so the Braves wouldn’t have faced him this series either way.
Another missing piece in the series will be catcher Carlos Ruiz, who was put on the disabled list Saturday with plantar fasciitis, and could be out as long as four to six weeks. That’s a marathon runner’s worst nightmare, that nagging pain in your heel. But once you got it, it’s hard to shake, and that’s the case with Ruiz.
All three of those players – Victorino, Pence and Ruiz – have had good success against the Braves. Just have a look at what those three have done in the past two seasons against the Braves:
Pence hit .366 (26-for-71) in 20 games with two home runs, 13 runs, and 14 RBIs, going back to the start of 2011. Victorino hit .372 (32-for-86) in 22 games, with four doubles, three triples, three home runs and 13 RBIs. He also scored 15 runs and stole six bases in seven attempts. Ruiz hit .307 (23-for-75) in 23 games with seven doubles, three home runs and 17 RBIs.
Blanton was 1-3 against the Braves the past two seasons, but had a 3.07 ERA in 29 1/3 innings, including his complete game shutout on May 3, the noon game after the crazy 15-13 win by the Braves in extras the night before to snap an eight-game losing streak to the Phillies.
The starting outfield for the Phillies these days is Domonic Brown, John Mayberry Jr. and Nate Schierholtz. They’ve got Erik Kratz catching and he’s actually hitting .379 (11-for-29) with four home runs in 15 games this season for the Phillies.
Yet then, defying good sense, the Phillies have actually won their past two series since the trade deadline, taking two of three from the Nationals and two of three from the Diamondbacks.
Since that Blanton game, the Braves have won six in a row in the series. The Braves are coming off an 8-2 homestand against the Phillies, Marlins and Astros. But you also get the feeling that the Braves shouldn’t be taking the Phillies lightly. Maybe now they’re playing with a little abandon, not all the negative energy that’s been surrounding them much of the season.
With Ben Sheets going tonight against Vance Worley, Mike Minor Tuesday against Cole Hamels and Tim Hudson Wednesday against Kyle Kendrick, the Braves have their three hottest pitchers going this series.
Sheets lost his last start – his first loss in four starts as a Brave – after giving up three earned runs in the first inning and one unearned run afterward, but he’s been a key pickup for the Braves. He has four quality starts in four outings during is comeback from two elbow operations, including his July 27 start against the Phillies when he held them to one run in six innings to beat Hamels.
Of the 24 2/3 innings he’s pitched, Sheets has allowed earned runs in only two of them – both first innings. Perhaps Sheets is at a point where he needs a batter or two to get loose and cranking. But once he does, he’s been able to shut teams down.
Sheets is averaging 8.39 strikeouts per nine innings and that leads all Braves starters (including a few who are on the DL now too): Tommy Hanson 8.14, Mike Minor 7.64, Brandon Beachy 7.56, Randall Delgado 7.14, Paul Maholm 6.29, Kris Medlen 6.26, Tim Hudson 5.45, Jair Jurrjens 3.54.
Chipper out of lineup
As DOB reported yesterday, Chipper Jones is not expected to be in the Braves lineup tonight because he had to stay back in Atlanta overnight to deal with some family matters. He’s supposed to arrive in Philadelphia late this afternoon. Knowing Chipper, he’ll probably be available to pinch hit before the night is up.
It was about time for him to get a day off anyway to rest his knees. Jones has played for five straight days four times this season, including twice since the All-Star break, and that’s the most he’s played consecutively.
(I’m including a recent stretch when he pinch hit in the first game of the doubleheader in DC and started the second game because he was still starting for five days in a row, if not five games).
I’m sure part of the reason Jones played yesterday was knowing he’d be out tonight, as well as the fact that Fredi Gonzalez doesn’t like to have both Chipper and Brian McCann out of the lineup on the same day, and McCann got a rest day yesterday against the Astros.
OK and more from Citizens Bank Park in a while.
1. Bourn CF
2. Prado LF
3. Heyward RF
4. Freeman 1B
5. McCann C
6. Uggla 2B
7. Francisco 3B
8. Janish SS
9. Sheets P