(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)
Beware of the spoilers. The standings say the Braves have to feel pretty good about their schedule from
here on out. Of the last 31 games of the regular season, only six are against teams with winning records – three against Washington on Sept. 14-16 and three against Pittsburgh Oct. 1-3.
(The Nationals, by the way, have twice that number, with 12 games in their final 31 games against winning teams, including six more against St. Louis, three against Atlanta, and three against the Dodgers.)
But overall records can be deceiving. The Braves figured this out pretty well in San Diego after dropping two of three to the Padres to end their 10-game road trip. They scored only four runs in three games against a Padres team which is 10 games under .500 for the season but has now won nine out of its past 10.
(And after losing two of three to the Nationals, splitting four games with the Giants and losing two of three to the Padres, the Braves are a half-game behind where they were when they left for Washington, now 5 ½ games behind the Nationals.)
The Braves open a seven-game homestand with a weekend series against the Phillies, which features Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels. Boom, boom and boom. (The Braves will counter with Mike Minor, Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm, respectively.) The Phillies may be down as a team, but seeing those names back-to-back-to-back still carries a lot of weight and the Braves know it.
The Braves have played four series against the Phillies this season, and won three of them (they’re 9-3 overall), but they haven’t faced all three guns in one series: Halladay, Lee and Hamels. Somehow the Braves haven’t faced Lee all season after seeing him five times in 2011, when he went 2-2 with a 3.24 ERA against the Braves.
The last time the Braves faced Halladay, Lee and Hamels in one series it was July 8-10 of last season and they lost two out of three, a 3-2 loss in Halladay’s start, the Braves won against Lee 4-1, and lost to Hamels 14-1.
The Nationals just got swept by the Phillies last week, and that was with Kyle Kendrick, Halladay, and Lee pitching. Hamels wasn’t in order with the other two then, but he is now after being scratched from a Wednesday start with a stomach bug. So here the Braves get to face the guy who pitched a complete game shutout against them on Aug. 7, the last time Minor faced the Phillies.
Minor will try to continue his good work tonight, and for more info on pitching match-ups and the wacky start times of this series, click on series preview: (First pitch on Sunday is 5:05 p.m.).
While Halladay, Lee and Hamels have all had their ups and down this season, as has the entire Phillies teams, they seem to have found their groove of late.
Halladay has four quality starts in his last five outings. He is 4-1 with a 2.75 ERA since he last pitched against the Braves and lost July 29, allowing three runs in six innings of a 6-2 loss to Hudson.
Amazingly, Lee is 3-7 on the season but with a 3.67 ERA. He held the Nationals to one run in seven innings
his last time out, and has allowed only six earned runs in 21 1/3 innings over three straight quality starts.
Hamels went 4-1 with a 1.86 ERA in five August starts, including two complete game shutouts (one against the Braves).
Oh, and coming behind the Phillies? Four games against the pushover Colorado Rockies, right? Wrong. The Rockies and their four-man rotation/hybrid piggyback pitchers setup have gone 16-12 in August entering tonight’s game against San Diego. They are assured of their first winning month since going 14-13 in June of 2011.
They’ve won eight of their past 11 games.
The Rockies were 12-20 with a 6.28 ERA in 65 games before going to the new pitching set-up and are 11-26 with a 5.61 ERA in 64 games since then went to it, according to the Denver Post.
But first thing’s first. And here’s DOB’s take on where the Braves’ mindset is as entering September.
Coming in September
Lyle Overbay is expected to join the Braves on Saturday, as was designated in his agreement when he signed, that they’d call him up Sept. 1. He’s hitting .273 (6-for-22) with three doubles and three RBIs in seven games with Triple-A Gwinnett.
Other additions, whether it be Saturday or after Gwinnett’s season ends on Monday – would be J.C. Boscan, as a third catcher, and outfielder Jose Constanza, as a speed guy. The Braves could call on Anthony Varvaro and/or Cory Gearrin to add to their bullpen. They also have some starting insurance with both Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran, though it’s not clear yet if they’ll be added to the roster.
Will also have to check on shortstop Jack Wilson’s progress and whether he’ll be ready to return from his finger injury when rosters expand Saturday. He’s played five games in Gwinnett in his most recent stint on the DL, going 3-for-16. And will find out more about what’s next for Andrelton Simmons, who is gearing up for a mid-September return in his comeback from a broken hand.
It will be interesting to see if Jimmy Rollins is in the Phillies lineup tonight. Manager Charlie Manuel benched the veteran shortstop in Thursday’s game against the Mets after he didn’t hustle on a dropped pop-up. Rollins is one of the Phillies hottest hitters and did a good bit of damage against the Braves in their last trip to Philly (4-for-12 with a home run and two doubles). Manuel wouldn’t say when reporters asked him yesterday if he would play Rollins on Friday.
Throwing out the ceremonial first pitch tonight at Turner Field will be Chance Veazey, the former infielder for the University of Georgia who was paralyzed from the waist down in a motor scooter accident in 2009. Veazey is a native of Tifton, who has developed a relationship with Braves hitting coach Greg Walker, who’s from Douglas, Ga.
“He’s a great friend and a class act,” Veazey said of Walker in a release from Georgia. “He has helped me experience being a part of a major league club first when he was in Chicago with the White Sox. I went up there and saw him and Gordon (Beckham) for a series with the Yankees and now I’ll get to do that with the Braves on Friday.”
Veazey is taking part in the first ever Game Ball Relay, a 24-hour relay that will deliver the game ball to Sanford Stadium for the Bulldogs’ season-opener against Buffalo, to raise money for the Shepherd Spinal Center where he was a patient in 2009.
Sunday night game
ESPN picked up the Braves game against the Nationals at Turner Field on Sunday, Sept. 16. It will now start at 8:05 p.m. rather than originally scheduled 1:35 p.m. The Braves have gone 1-2 in ESPN’s Sunday night games this season – winning 7-1 in San Francisco on Sunday, losing to the Mets 6-5 in New York on Aug. 12, and losing 6-2 to the Nationals at home on May 27.
1. Bourn CF
2. Prado LF
3. Heyward RF
4. Jones 3B
5. Freeman 1B
6. McCann C
7. Uggla 2B
8. Janish SS
9. Minor P