Braves’ progress won’t matter until they can beat Phillies

Michael Bourn was doubled off first to complete another Braves' series loss to Philadelphia. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Michael Bourn was doubled off first to end the Braves' loss to Philadelphia. (Jason Getz/AJC)

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

135 comments Add your comment

Gman

May 3rd, 2012
4:21 pm

Last night’s dramatics aside. Phils take 2 of 3 and Braves lose first series since opener w Mets. Need to win division games!

VABravesFan

May 3rd, 2012
4:23 pm

That’s right – but still a few games with the Phils to go – we can get it turned around.

Dubvee

May 3rd, 2012
4:25 pm

Could it be my very first first?

Dubvee

May 3rd, 2012
4:25 pm

cloudodust

May 3rd, 2012
4:31 pm

JS : You are correct. Let’s not forget the Nats and the rest of the East but the Phillies, by all means. I want to see another Division Banner out in center. Growing tired of playing for a wild card.

beone

May 3rd, 2012
4:39 pm

Frankly, this year is getting ready for the future. If we do well, great but I don’t expect us to win the NL crown. Now use Chipper’s $ wisely, allow the youngsters to mature another year, the Phillies get a year older and next year and for the following few years, we could be really really good. Can be, let’s hope we will be!

eastbound and down

May 3rd, 2012
4:44 pm

the phillies of today are trying to replicate the braves of the 1990s-early 2000s. strong starting pitiching and timely hitting. but, they are the 2nd oldest team in the majors. we will see how this progresses.

JSS

May 3rd, 2012
4:47 pm

Grover Cleveland Alexander sighting!!! Man, we keep that dude’s name alive!!!

Stinger 2

May 3rd, 2012
4:56 pm

The Braves have to play each division rival 16 or 18 times The bad news is that our record is 3-6 now against the Mets and Phillies combined. The good news is we have plenty or games and time to turn this record around. .

1eyedJack

May 3rd, 2012
5:00 pm

“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 Nats have been a real thorn in the Braves the last couple of years. They need to beat the snot out of them fellas.

Matt

May 3rd, 2012
5:08 pm

Last night was great, but today erased the euphoria. The Braves need to stop making mediocre pitchers look like All-Stars.

Tumbledown

May 3rd, 2012
5:11 pm

The Phillies and Cardinals have been the class of the NL for the past six seasons. The Braves have nine games this month with these two teams. They gotta take at least four or five of these games to show that they can compete with the Big Boys and for the long haul. These two teams are supremely confident against the Braves. It took a superhuman effort for the Braves to get even one victory against the Phillies. I am not confident that the Braves really have what it takes.

Maestro

May 3rd, 2012
5:13 pm

Indeed the Philadelphia has the Braves number for some reason. By allowing them to win two out of three without Howard and Utley in their lineup, the Braves are allowing the Phillies to embolden themselves of being the big brother who slaps the little brother around. Should have taken care of business especially today. It would have sent a message that it is a new day.

No. 1 Braves Fan

May 3rd, 2012
5:19 pm

No need to panic Jeff. You will only stir up the naysayers. Don`t we have 15 or 16 games left to play agains the Phillies?

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution [...]

ACE

May 3rd, 2012
5:30 pm

This should have been called GIVE AWAY DAY instead of get away day. A pitiful performance. That is the difference between the Phils and Braves. The Phils lose a heart breaker with their best pitcher on the mound and rebound the next day to take the series.

NickGranite

May 3rd, 2012
5:38 pm

Phillies angle aside which I agree with completely, we have all seen repeatedly the mail-ins on getaway day. Seems almost everyone had a party to get to by the extreme lack of patience shown at the plate. Delgado got cheated and I would sure have hated to have been a paying customer today.

danny

May 3rd, 2012
5:44 pm

I am shocked that an AJC columist writes a panic article within the first month of the season.

Gene

May 3rd, 2012
6:08 pm

I remember seeing Roger Clemens pitch against the Braves when he was at Houston. I think it was a playoff game. The Braves’ hitters were intimidated and seemed afraid that Roger would throw at them. They remain so against the Phillies, and Howard and Uttley weren’t even there. Jeff has not written a panic article. His point is true.

Joey

May 3rd, 2012
6:30 pm

“I want to see another Division Banner out in center.”
*****************************************
Not me, cloudodust. I’d like to get one of these “real” banners or pennants – a NL or better yet, a WS.

rich

May 3rd, 2012
6:36 pm

Blanton threw less than 90 pitches, I believe. Braves hitters were in a hurry to get out of town. At least Jeff is telling it like it is. Braves announcers, SImpson and Caray and company made it sound like ‘who cares’. Simpson said something to the effect that yeah, it’s a loss, but they saved the bullpen – that could help them in Colorado. If the whole point of today was save the bullpen….then why didnt they just forfeit….oh, wait – it looked like they did

Dean

May 3rd, 2012
7:01 pm

It should also be remembered that the past several years the Braves owned the series in April and May and got whacked in the series that really mattered later in the year. Here is to hoping that it turns the other way this year. We have to stay healthy and keep improving. If so, we should be able to play much better in September this year.
Also have to realize that after the loss last night for Philly they had more of an edge for today. It happens all the time. Two tired teams, one had an edge that got them over the hump. The Braves just played tired.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

May 3rd, 2012
7:06 pm

Good call JS- a pathetic outing today. i’m sure they were still hungover from last night, but when has stopped anyone from getting back on their game the next day??

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

May 3rd, 2012
7:08 pm

JS- would you compare the phillies owning the braves to the saints owning the falcons?? i mean phillies were w/o a few of their key players and the saints will be w/o some of theirs- will anything change this year??

Delbert D.

May 3rd, 2012
7:24 pm

It’s not like they were swept, Jeff.

iTiSi

May 3rd, 2012
7:25 pm

Finally, an AJC sportswriter who doesn’t “paint a rosy picture” no matter what the circumstances or his allegiance. JS went with his conscience and laid it all out there for everyone to read. Some people have difficulty facing facts and realism, but it’s right there for all to see. I have reached the conclusion after taking last night and today into consideration that the Braves rely on 60% luck and 40% skill. That explains some of the wins and a few winning streaks hear and there. It has to be the other way around. Also, when the “main spoke in the wheel” is weak or broken, it just will not work. That “spoke” is the top dog in the dugout who makes all the decisions.

PMC

May 3rd, 2012
7:25 pm

If they play like they did today Oil Can Boyd could beat them.

Absolutely pathetic effort. Yeah it’s a long season. They played like they were ridiculously hungover and wanted to be in bed not at the park.

iTiSi

May 3rd, 2012
7:28 pm

Should be “here” toward the end, not “hear”. Where did that come from?

1991 braves

May 3rd, 2012
7:34 pm

Braves are pretenders this year, just like they have been the past 4 or 5 years. They have a terrible manager, they have very inconsistent starting rotation. You never know what you are going to get from Hanson, Beachy, Minor, and Hudson is coming off of back surgery. Hanson is probably the biggest head case of the starting rotation now. This guy was a number 1 prospect, and he has been dreadful since his rookie season. And to make matters even worse, the bullpen is very inconsistent this year. O’flarity has given up as many runs this year 7, as he did after 72 innings last year. Batters are hitting over .300 against him. Venters and Kimbrell both have inflated E.R.A.s compared to last year. Both are over .250 and last year they were both under .200. And even Medlen is inconsistent after coming off of surgery. Too many question marks in the pitching to win consistently this year. As far as competing against the Phils, there is no way this team has the maturity or the talent to play with the Phils. Not to mention the Phils have a superior manager. Keep in mind the phils dominated the braves with their 2 best players on the bench the whole series. Wait till next year braves fans, starting to sound alot like UGA football.

Delbert D.

May 3rd, 2012
7:40 pm

Lets turn to more interesting stuff, like the pending collapse of Tom Benson’s empire. To be in New Orleans in possession of over $1 billion strongly suggests something, given that city’s sordid history of organized crime. Who really sponsored that bounty idea? Who would profit? Are there still some remaining tentacles from the Carlos Marcello family? Back in the ’60s, the FBI said he (Marcello, not Benson) was just a tomato grower, but surely they don’t believe that now. I’m not a real conspiracy theorist like Mel Gibson in that movie; I’m just playing with this for fun.

dawg4u

May 3rd, 2012
7:59 pm

I have to agree with JS on this article because once again we become the Phil’s favorite whipping boys. Halladay has been average this season so far (we did get to him), and Lee is on the DL and the other regulars of last year are performing poorly and we still lose two out of three at home to a team that had been struggling. This coupled with the fact that Howard and Utley are still disabled and it makes you wonder why we are so owned by them. We get shut out by Blanton of all starters after getting to Halladay last night. We also have more trouble with Kendrick than any other team and he is a fifth starter for them. However, other than that at least we are still ahead of them in the standings albeit it’s only May!

LakeDawg

May 3rd, 2012
8:16 pm

You are correct, Jeff. However, I like the comments by Chipper and Ross. No denial there, just a resolve to change the dynamics of the relationship with the Phillies.

Nativebird

May 3rd, 2012
8:31 pm

So correct. The sole question for this franchise in the foreseeable future-is simply two words: Jason Heyward.

P B Orr

May 3rd, 2012
8:51 pm

It’s barely May. We need not pee ourselves just yet.

D-bo

May 3rd, 2012
9:06 pm

Surprised and shocked you haven’t given your take on concussions
In light of juniors death.

What’s going on?

Tom G

May 3rd, 2012
9:16 pm

Don’t forget Chipper and McCann(the two best bats on the team) were sitting out today!! In my opinion that was huge! Also Henski(RF) was sitting and although not a regular, was red-hot at the plate while JHeyward was getting better.

GB

May 3rd, 2012
9:52 pm

The Phillies in addition to not having Utley and Howard als set their best hitter this year – Ruiz, who had a lot of RBIs yesterday – I don’t remember exactly, but it seemed like everytime I looked he was getting a hit

iTiSi

May 3rd, 2012
9:55 pm

The big question is WHY was Chipper and McCann sitting out today? That all comes back to the manager!

Billy Django

May 3rd, 2012
10:01 pm

mace224

May 3rd, 2012
10:10 pm

Francisco, Hernandez, Delgado. Is this the Miami Marlins?

BobDawg

May 3rd, 2012
10:12 pm

JEFF, I read the Philly newspapers a lot and from the area during my youth…. They have deep,deep pockets at $180 Million payroll and sell out each game. Great Cable regional network and Comcast is based there. They have bought their pitching staff and can replenish as well as Boston or the Yankees… We are competitive but geez, Jeff.. you know what is going on and the Braves are at a huge disadvantage as the Phils can acquire a Cliff Lee whenever they want to…We have to rest Chipper when we go Night/Day game next day,. McCann the same way…Ruiz sat out today’s game also….

UGA Proud

May 3rd, 2012
10:16 pm

If we’re lucky, the Braves will finish third in the division. Otherwise, it’s the cellar. Even my brother, a die-hard Braves fan some 1,000 miles away, has started a Fire Frank Wren campaign. It’s a sad thing to see 40-year-old Chipper attempt to carry the team. Meantime, McWhiff is worthless in a pinch. If the game’s on the line, the guy couldn’t make contact with a beach ball.

mace224

May 3rd, 2012
10:17 pm

Fredi, Juan Francisco is not the answer at third base.

Joe Adcock

May 3rd, 2012
10:29 pm

@mace224. Might as well be. Going nowhere fast. Going down that nowhere road. I thought Delgado pitched a good ball game against a provenly great baseball team. Braves are still pretender want-to-bes. What else is new?

gcs

May 3rd, 2012
11:19 pm

@Schultz
You haven’t written a thing about the Hawks since their belly flop in Game 2.
Still think Larry Drew deserves a raise?

Will Robinson

May 4th, 2012
12:11 am

Face it, at this point in the season the Phillies are clearly the better team.

GLE

May 4th, 2012
1:22 am

the Brave are a jeckle/Hyde team. You never know which one is going to show up. they seem to lack the discipline to play consistantly and are willing to accept excuses for poor play. Thay can play with anybody on any given night. But clearly don’t come to the ballpark every nite.

Gritsfalcon

May 4th, 2012
1:30 am

Jeff Schultz–I read my mind! I couldn’t have said it any better!

BBQ is good with Onions Mix in

May 4th, 2012
4:36 am

Look good out there after the great come back n tv folks kissy butt rosey sayin this will start a winnin streak….suprise suprise like hemmoriods flarin they reverse to the 1972 braves no hittin just Pitchin at times…and now we go to Play at Coors field so much for that folks and next we ride to st,louis the team we help get in wildcard n win world series the fans will be there to show atlanta fans that they can find there Ball park always with near sold out busch staduim….Maybe cards will honor atlanta with fake world series rings to them!

BBQ is good with Onions Mix in

May 4th, 2012
4:39 am

after we done in colorado n st;louis and chicago (who still lookin for a world series) and the beat down in coors n busch stadium we wake up and be 18-16 after cubs series in a week…!