Posts Tagged ‘Philadelphia Phillies’

Braves collapse, and the shine just came off Fredi Gonzalez

Fredi Gonzalez watched as the Braves blew an 8 1/2 game lead in 23 days. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Fredi Gonzalez watched as the Braves blew an 8½-game wild-card lead in 23 days. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Fredi Gonzalez was quietly handed the Braves’ managerial job before Bobby Cox ever stepped out the door in a wink-wink, nudge-nudge deal, and nobody really had a problem with it.

He had the resume and the personality. Everybody liked and respected him. He knew the players, the organization and the city. The Braves weren’t making over the manager’s office as much as they were changing a light bulb.

Something went wrong.

This is not a “Fire Fredi Gonzalez” column. But we’ve just witnessed one of the worst collapses in sports history, and the Braves can’t just assume that a few roster tweaks are going to fix the problem. When a team goes 10-20 down the stretch — including 0-9 against their two biggest competitors (Philadelphia and St. Louis) — and loses three consecutive series to the division’s flotsam (Mets, Marlins, Nationals), this isn’t about just injuries or a few guys going …

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Poll: Who should get most blame for Braves’ collapse?

Here's two of your biggest targets: Derek Lowe and Fredi Gonzalez. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Here's two of your biggest targets: Derek Lowe and Fredi Gonzalez. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

I write this knowing that there’s still a very good chance the Braves (with Tim Hudson on the mound) will win tonight’s game against Philadelphia (which starts Joe Blanton) and at least force a one-game playoff for the wild card spot Thursday in St. Louis.

I write this knowing that if the Braves get into the playoffs, strange things have been known to happen in postseasons. And, seriously, it’s not like either potential divisional opponent, Milwaukee or Arizona, is some indestructible force.

Who should get most blame for Braves’ collapse?

  • Frank Wren
  • Fredi Gonzalez
  • Larry Parrish
  • Derek Lowe
  • Dan Uggla
  • Jason Heyward
  • Martin Prado
  • Brian McCann

View Results

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But as the Braves drag a four-game losing streak and 10-19 record over the past five weeks into the Phillies game, here’s the question: Who’s to blame for this collapse?

I’ve got my own …

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Braves, Derek Lowe blow up again (but somehow still live)

Derek Lowe might've done better if he closed his eyes while he was pitching. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Derek Lowe might've done better if he closed his eyes while he pitched Tuesday. Or maybe he did. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(UPDATED: 11:45 p.m.)

So there’s this scene in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” when all of those who have been condemned to death and are hanging from crosses suddenly break into the cheer tune, “Always look on the bright side of life …”

And that pretty much sums up the Braves right now. They are a team of “Brians.” Every ounce of their corpses screams – a blood-curdling scream – that they are condemned for a season without a playoff game, or at the very least without another win.

And yet, they live. They sing!

For a short while, Braves fans actually cheered Tuesday night when their team trailed the Philadelphia Phillies 7-0 in the seventh inning. Why? Because team officials – desperate for something to spark a cheer, or at least prevent throwing objects – showed highlights on the video board of Houston taking a 5-0 lead over St. Louis.

This is what Braves fans …

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LIVE: Braves can clinch tonight (and it starts with Lowe)

The Braves will do more scoreboard watching, and hope to have another banner to raise.

The Braves will do more scoreboard watching tonight, and hope to have another banner to raise.

Amid all of the angst of the Braves’ collapse (10-18), the injured starters (Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson), the slumping hitters (Martin Prado, Jason Heyward, Brian McCann) and the overused bullpen, guess what? The Braves can actually clinch the wild card tonight.

OK, for that to happen, the Braves need to hit a long-odds parlay: 1) The maligned starter, Derek Lowe, needs a strong outing to defeat the Phillies at Turner Field; 2) The St. Louis Cardinals need to lose for a second straight game in Houston. Those two developments would give the Braves the National League wild card spot for the second straight year, and render Wednesday’s regular-season finale against Philadelphia meaningless.

Few expected the Cards to lose to the Astros Monday night. It happened (5-4 in 10 innings). But the Braves’ postseason chances mostly hinge on Lowe. If he and the Braves win tonight, at worst the …

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Braves need at least 2 wins (and don’t expect Phillies to fold)

If the Braves don't want to turn this Phillies fan into a prophet, they'll have to show it on the field. (AP photo)

If the Braves don't want to turn this Phillies fan into a prophet, they'll have to show it on the field. (AP photo)

It would be beneficial for the Braves if the Philadelphia Phillies came to town with all of their starters wrapped in bubble wrap and treated the next three games as spring training. But don’t expect it.

Realistically, the fizzling Braves need to win at least two out of three against the Phillies — and maybe sweep – to advance to the postseason. St. Louis, which trails them in the wild card race by only one game, ends the season against the 104-loss Houston Astros.

The Phillies may have everything wrapped up, but they shouldn’t be lacking in motivation. They lost eight straight games until defeating the New York Mets on Sunday and they don’t want to head into the divisional playoffs on a downturn. Eliminating an East Division rival also could be motivating. So while Phillies manager Charlie Manuel isn’t going to do anything to endanger his team’s postseason …

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Braves: Playoff teams don’t lose series to Nats, Marlins, Mets

Original Caption:  	Atlanta BravesAn eighth-inning strikeout and bat-flip by the struggling Martin Prado sums up the Braves' problems over the past month. (AP photo)

This strikeout and bat-flip by the struggling Martin Prado sums up the Braves' struggles and mood over the past month.

On statistics-driven websites like CoolStandings.com, the Braves are still given a 65.7 percent chance of winning the National League wild card spot, almost twice the percentage of the St. Louis Cardinals (34.3).

But if this is about odds, what are we still doing here?

The Braves’ wild card lead is down to one game after a 3-0 loss to Washington and the Cardinals’ 3-2 win over the Chicago Cubs. So as the team no doubt dreaded (but probably wouldn’t admit), its playoff lifeline will come down to the season-ending, three-game series against Philadelphia, beginning Monday night at Turner Field.

Math is one thing. Reality is another. Consider the pitching match-ups for the Phillies’ series. In game one, the Braves will start a rookie, Randall Delgado, against Cliff Lee. In game two, it’s the struggling Derek Lowe against Roy Oswalt. In the series finale, it’s Tim …

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Braves are fizzling in a season that has never felt right

Can any more meetings solve the Braves' problems, starting with Derek Lowe?

Can any more meetings solve the Braves' problems, starting with Derek Lowe?

(Updated: 11:40 p.m.)

Maybe it was the raised expectations that followed the Dan Uggla trade, or maybe it was the euphoria of an anticipated lineup with Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman (the cover of Sports Illustrated!), or maybe it was just the Braves’ return to the playoffs last season that got us all drunk.

But something has been off all season.

Braves general manager Frank Wren said Tuesday, “For most of the season we had the third or fourth best record in baseball, and one of the best pitching staffs.” And that may be true. But there never has been a sense of rhythm to the season. It seems like something always has gone wrong, whether it was Dan Uggla’s half season of whiffs, or Heyward’s post-injury mutant swing, or Martin Prado devolving from all-everything to everything’s-a-struggle, to Derek Lowe — well, let’s not even get started on Derek Lowe — to the injuries to the suddenly mortal …

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Braves collapsing, may need another last-day miracle

Dan Uggla consoles closer Craig Kimbrel after the Braves blew a game to Florida.

Dan Uggla consoles closer Craig Kimbrel after the Braves blew a game to Florida.

As much as last season was filled with positive memories for the Braves, their preference was that this year not turn into a repeat.

They didn’t want to have to scramble again to make it in as a wild card. They didn’t want their postseason chances to come down to the final series of the regular season again. They didn’t want to be in a position of having to beat Philadelphia, the best team in baseball, in game No. 162 to make the playoffs. But it may come to that.

The Braves lost at Florida 6-5 Monday night. This time, Omar Infante hit a two-run homer off suddenly fallible closer Craig Kimbrel, as the Braves lost for the eighth time in 11 games. Their National League wild card lead is down to 2½ games lead over St. Louis and 3½ over San Francisco — neither of whom are falling apart like Atlanta (numbers below).

Much like last season, the Braves are dropping engine parts down the stretch and all of …

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Forget division, Chipper says Braves can take Philly in playoffs

Martin Prado is mobbed by teammates after his game-winning hit helped the Braves win Sunday. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Martin Prado is mobbed after his game-winning hit capped Braves' comeback. (Curtis Compton)

It would have been easy for the Braves to slip on their rose-colored Annie sunglasses Sunday and proclaim that they’re going to shake the baseball world at its foundation, storm Philadelphia and miraculously come back to win the National League East title. The numbers say it’s just not going to happen.

“Let’s face it,” catcher David Ross said. “Even if we go in there and sweep them, they’ve still got like a five-game lead with 20 games left. So I don’t think they’re in any kind of panic mode.”

No. But notice the Braves also aren’t panicking? In fact, Chipper Jones would tell you they’re relishing a three-game series against the Phillies that opens Monday and he hopes the teams meet again in the postseason — because he believes the Braves can take them.

Start with this: In terms of the National League East Division race, this series doesn’t carry nearly the significance it did two months …

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LIVE: Braves try to avoid first series sweep vs. Dodgers

Just as Michael Bourn couldn't get to this home run by the Dodgers' A.J. Ellis, the Braves haven't been able to catch L.A. in this series. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

Just as Michael Bourn couldn't get to this home run by the Dodgers' A.J. Ellis, the Braves haven't been able to catch L.A. in this series. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

Good morning. We begin with a public service announcement: Because of the holiday weekend, the Georgia/Combat uniform burning in Athens has been pushed back to Tuesday. Please bring your own flame thrower.

Now, to the Braves. They have only 24 games left. After consecutive losses to Los Angeles, they will try to salvage one game of this series today at Turner Field. Only two teams in the majors have avoided being swept in a series of at least three games this season — the Braves and Philadelphia.

For the third straight game, the Braves start a rookie, Randall Delgado (who follows Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor). When I asked manager Fredi Gonzalez if it seemed strange pitching three straight rookies, he laughed and responded, “No, I did it all the time in Florida.” Funny man.

Expectations are a little different here but the …

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