Once the confetti finally settled in the aftermath of the Braves’ four-hour, 11-inning, 28-run, 36-hit, is-that-really-Tim-Hudson-grabbing-a-bat marathon win over Philadelphia the night before, the Braves were left with one painful truth Thursday: The Phillies still own them.
This doesn’t mean the Braves won’t reach the postseason this year. It doesn’t even mean they can’t win the National League East Division. But Philadelphia didn’t leave town without reaffirming the pecking order.
We may see a blur of replays of Chipper Jones’ walk-off two-run blast that ended Game 2 of the series. We may remember the pyrotechnics of Wednesday’s 15-13 victory for several years. But it was the Phillies who bounced back to win Thursday’s game 4-0. That wrapped up yet another series win over the Braves — and ultimately, that’s really the big picture.
“Somebody said at the beginning of the series that this is a rivalry,” Jones said after the loss Thursday. “It’s not a rivalry until we beat them and beat them consistently, and we go back and forth — you know, we win the division one year, they win it the next. That’s not the case. They’re clearly on top. We’ve got a ways to go. Can we play with them? Yeah. Can we beat them? Yeah. We just have to go out and do it consistently.”
The Braves logically view Philadelphia as the team to beat in the East. Washington’s in first place? Yeah. That’s cute. Over the past five seasons, the Phillies have won five division titles, two pennants and a World Series. The Nationals have won bupkis.
The worst thing from the Braves’ standpoint is that no matter how strong they may think they are, there’s only one team that consistently buries them.
The Phillies had won eight consecutive meetings until Wednesday night’s marathon, so it’s now nine of 10. They have won nine of the past 13 series against the Braves. Since 2008, Philly’s record against Atlanta is 46-29. Over the past seven years, the Phillies have won five season series, the Braves (2009) won with one split (2007).
Not a rivalry.
Let’s not forgot the inglorious ending to last season. It was the Phillies who whacked the Braves on the head with a shovel and pushed them in the hole. They came to Turner Field at the end of September with the East already clinched and nothing to gain but the pleasure of tormenting Atlanta. So they did. They won Game 1 4-2; Game 2 7-1; and Game 3 4-3 in 13 innings. The Braves then sat slumped in their chair, looking at the television and watching St. Louis defeat Houston 8-0 to win the wild card.
These are not scars that will easily heal.
The Phillies are only a .500 team (13-13) through 26 games. Do the Braves view that as significant? No.
“Washington is good, the Mets are good, but until you knock the team off that won it the year before, and the year before that, it doesn’t matter what kind of start they got off to,” catcher David Ross said. “Until we beat them, they’re the team that holds the crown.”
On Thursday, the Braves received a great start from Randall Delgado (eight innings, two runs). But it didn’t matter because the day after making the Phillies’ pitching staff scream, “Uncle” with 15 runs and 19 hits, they made Joe Blanton look like Grover Cleveland Alexander (zero runs, three hits, all singles). The game lasted only two hours, two minutes.
The Braves looked tired and play tired. Didn’t the Phillies have the same turnaround as the Braves?
“Their catcher [Brian Schneider] told me their bus [departure] time from the stadium last night was 12:10 [a.m.],” Ross said. “The first pitch [Thursday] was 12:10, so the game was exactly 12 hours later.”
One team clearly responded better.
Ross again: “This is one hump we have to get over.”
Until the Braves get over the hump of Philadelphia, little else will matter. Because as great as Wednesday’s victory was, what matters most is that the Phillies came to town and won twice.
By Jeff Schultz