A race in lockstep: Braves and Phillies keep matching results

It took the Phillies 16 innings, but they lost, too. They started 90 minutes before the Braves and ended 75 minutes later, but they succumbed to the sub-.500 Astros on a night the Braves were falling to plus-.500 Colorado. And if you’ve ever struggled to define “lockstep” … well, here’s your answer.

It has been more than a week since ground was gained or lost at the top of the National League East. It last happened on Aug. 16, when the Braves beat the Dodgers on Melky  Cabrera’s walk-off hit and the Phillies didn’t play. That stretched the Braves’ lead to 2 1/2 games, where it has remained.

The Braves and Phillies have played, though not each other, each of the past eight days. They’ve matched results eight days running. The day-by-day tally: Won, won, lost, won, lost, won, lost, lost. The Braves played three games against the last-place Nationals when the Phillies were playing the Giants and didn’t gain. Then the Phillies played the Nationals while the Braves went to Chicago and nothing changed. And Tuesday was plain weird.

The Braves lost in accustomed fashion — Derek Lowe got knocked around — in Denver, while the Phillies tied the Astros with two out in the bottom of the ninth on Jimmy  Rollins’ homer. Somehow Philadelphia contrived to play seven more innings without mustering another run. Indeed, they managed only three more singles, one an infield hit.

Ryan Howard got ejected in the bottom of the 14th after a check-swing strikeout — his fifth whiff of the long night — with the winning run at third. The game ended with the tying runs aboard and the Phillies looking to that famous slugger Roy Oswalt for deliverance. The Phillies had been forced to deploy a pitcher in left field after Howard was thumbed. (It was the first time the Phillies had used a pitcher afield since 1971.) To his credit, Oswalt put the ball in play. He grounded out to third.

The point being: Don’t think it’s only the Braves who leave runners aboard and wind up in strange situations. (We recall Matt Diaz getting doubled off and Martin Prado failing to bunt last week.) The Phillies do it, too. They’re good, but they’re not perfect. They’ve been given an opening each of the past two nights against a lousy opponent, and they’ve lost twice while scoring four runs in 23 innings. This with Howard, Chase Utley and Shane Victorino all having returned from injury.

Eight days have passed since there was movement in this race, and nothing says the next eight days will be any different. Indeed, there’s no guarantee the Braves and Phillies will offer anything but matching outcomes for nearly another month. Only on Sept. 20 does something have to change. That’s when the Braves and Phillies next face each other.

194 comments Add your comment

Andy

August 25th, 2010
8:47 am

Mark Bradley

August 25th, 2010
8:48 am

Kudos to you, Andy.

Darrell

August 25th, 2010
8:50 am

Too bad the Braves can’t pull away when Philly loses.

Brad

August 25th, 2010
8:52 am

Yeah I agree. To think they could be up by 3.5 or 4.5 now. Would be a much better cushion. They could have nearly locked this up. Now it’s still very much up for grabs. One team gets hot and it’s over.

Finchdawg

August 25th, 2010
8:53 am

Man, we’ve been getting lucky the past couple of nights. The Astros stink on the road. Doubt they’ll win 3 in a row.

kevin

August 25th, 2010
8:53 am

It works two ways. The Braves could have about a five game lead or larger if they did anything half way productive on the road against mediocre teams. I’d almost rather have Kawakami in the rotation and Lowe in the pen if I didn’t feel that Lowe would contaminate the one of the best pens in the NL.

Andy

August 25th, 2010
8:55 am

I think you were a little hard on Lowe. He actually had a “quality start” and has been decent the past 3 months or so since his terrible April. I’m not really defending him. He certainly is not worth what he is being paid but he is a decent 4th starter maybe soon to be 5th starter if Minor continues to develop.

robdawg08

August 25th, 2010
8:56 am

Maybe if Cox would make a lineup out and keep it for about 6 games then hitters would get into a groove. That platooning crap makes hitters go hot then cold. Derrek Lee needs to show up !

Sonny Clusters

August 25th, 2010
8:57 am

We was touched by this line . . . ” Only on Sept. 20 does something have to change. That’s when the Braves and Phillies next face each other.” That is some fine writing. When we was a writer we would have liked to write that. We was noticing that runners in scoring position don’t get in all that much and was wondering if the Braves are taught to hit behind runners and go to the opposite field or do they just swing away from the heels no matter the count or the situation? We was hoping to see what you think.

robdawg08

August 25th, 2010
8:58 am

Put Melky in LF,Ankiel in CF and let’s see if they can get into a hitting streak. Let Hinske & Diaz pinch hit. Damn already…

fieldofdreams

August 25th, 2010
8:58 am

Of one thing I am sure; Jesus rose from the dead. His resurrection is the watershed event of human history, and how you respond to it determines your eternal destiny. As for the Braves, it’s hard to imagine this team beating San Diego right now, but hopefully they’ll shift to a higher gear. This really isn’t the team that bolted into first place. Totally new infield, center-fielder, and fifth starter.

Brave New World

August 25th, 2010
9:02 am

If pitching carries a team during a stretch run, you have to like the Braves chances way over the Phillies. Overall pitching staff vs. overall pitching staff, the Braves are far superior. Even aces (Halladay, who I think is great) are not that far off (Hudson has been great this year). There’s no contest between bullpens: The Braves are dominant, the Phillies don’t have a closer.

Sonny Clusters

August 25th, 2010
9:04 am

When we was playing ball we had a shortstop named Gonzales Gonzales. Coach called him Go Go. Go Go could run faster than anybody on the team but a Clusters. After the game when we’d go to Dairy Queen Go Go would put little peppers in his parfait. We never trusted him after that.

dman

August 25th, 2010
9:12 am

Hey Mark, is it just me, or has the umpiring behind the plate the past 2 nights been atrocious. Case in point Venters not getting the corners of the plate, and Street getting strikes called way off the plate. What do you think?

Magnum

August 25th, 2010
9:13 am

Sonny, I want to here more about “Standing” Pat, your right fielder. I can’t remember why he had his nickname, but it made me laugh!

Braves73

August 25th, 2010
9:15 am

It’s definitely going to come down to the final series with the Phils, but Bobby isn’t helping things with his confounding lineups. I am perfectly fine with resting McCann once every five to six days, but he is now almost platooning him with Ross. You can’t conceivably win with one of, if not your most productive guy on the pine (especially when you are struggling to score runs).

It’s always the same crap with Bobby, he falls in love with his platooning system and then craps away games with his triple A lineups. Please for the love of God Bobby, don’t do the same old, same old. It’s your final year and you don’t have to prove anything to anyone with this craziness. Just play your best guys the rest of the way and suck it up…YOU ARE IN A PENNANT RACE!

gcs

August 25th, 2010
9:27 am

Mark, please stop praising these idiots who keep doing the “First” thing. It is getting SO old.

.

Let's Go

August 25th, 2010
9:29 am

Mark you Jinx them the other day saying they both are going to be in the playoffs. At the rate they are going the Mets & Marlins will be back in the race by the end of the week. The Braves have lost the last two games to a Rockies team that is trying to pull another late season comeback and make they playoffs. The last 2 games the Rockies have played like a team trying to make the playoffs and the Braves have looked like they are content knowing the Phillies are losing at the same time. The Rockies have the 2nd best home record (behind the Braves) and have quietly pulled within 5 games of the wildcard lead. This team could be a tough out for any team in the 1st round of the playoffs.

PMC

August 25th, 2010
9:31 am

The solace this morning… that loss last night didn’t effect the Braves one bit. They are playing a team that is good on the road. The vaunted Phillies…they are getting beaten at home by the Astros from whom they took thier best player. They have to be fuming in Philly this morning…. and that… is a beautiful thing.

mikeDW

August 25th, 2010
9:36 am

I hope we don’t pull away. I hope it’s close to the end, so we have momentum going into the post season. Breathing room would KILL this team.

Sonny Clusters

August 25th, 2010
9:37 am

We was reading where Mark jinked the Braves and was wondering if other journalists jink? We was fortunate to have some colorful teammates when we was playing ball and Standing Pat was one of them along with Straight Leg Abercrombie and Stinky Wintes and Jeff and some others. Standing Pat was not all that mobile but he could hit. Straight Leg couldn’t bend over. He was Troy Glaus with an attitude and a bat. Most of you know about Stinky Wintes and Jeff. Go Go was speed at the top of the order. We was a fine baseball team and was never jinked the whole time we was together.

Dirty Dawg

August 25th, 2010
9:38 am

You Bobby-bashers are so full of it, your eyes have got to be brown. You trying to tell me that Rick Ankiel has a clue about hitting against left handers? Or Diaz against rightees? Or McCann against either right now? If you ask me the one that needs to be ‘platooned’ more is the J-Hey Kid – or at least moved out of the #2 spot. Until he learns that he can’t hit the slider down and away, or that they’re gonna groove their first pitch to him more often than not, he’s not gonna make the contribution down the stretch that we need, or that will clinch the Rookie award.

We all thought that Derrek was gonna be our savior, and he may still be, but for now he’s in as big a funk as Troy ever thought about. At least he’s not the defensive liability that Glaus was/is. Fact is, we’re gonna look back on this ‘play-off’ run and realize that losing Chipper – just when he was gettin’ it done – was our downfall…that’s if we don’t make it. If we do make it, than it’ll be that Gonzalas stayed hot, Brian got off the snide, Derrek figured out how to get the bat on the ball, Jason started going the ‘other way’ more often – and stopped striking out so much – ‘the twins’ – Prado and Infante – kept on keeping on and the Diaz/Ankeil/Ross/Cabrera/WholeStaff do their jobs.

Angus

August 25th, 2010
9:39 am

If we don’t win the Division, I wonder if all the errors will be the culprit – two more unearned runs last night with the game still in question.

Braves73 – there’s nothing confounding about McCann sitting last night. He’s slumping right now (2 for his last 19, .213 in August) – night game vs a LHP, followed by a day game with vs a RHP, plus three more RHP vs Florida coming up.

Herschel Talker

August 25th, 2010
9:42 am

MB:

I’m curious to your thoughts on Derrek Lee. He’s clearly a huge talent and should be a big boost, and I’m still hopeful that he will be. But he just doesn’t look to me comfortable at all up at the plate. His swings look painful. He can’t hit fastballs right down the middle. I’m guessing his back problems may be worse than he and the Braves are willing to admit. What do you think?

HT

NCBravesFan

August 25th, 2010
9:44 am

I’d rather the Braves have won the first two in Colorado of course, but the bottom line is this: the Braves are going to be in first place after this latest road trip. After today, the Braves come home and the Phils begin a West Coast road trip.

Nothing is guaranteed of course (as Philly can attest to), but the Braves do have a chance to pad the lead a bit into early September.

Mark Bradley

August 25th, 2010
9:44 am

Backs are tricky, Herschel. Everyone says as much.

Too many acquisitions?

August 25th, 2010
9:45 am

I’m starting to think Frank Wren made too many moves late in the season. I’m also starting to think this has affected the team chemistry and Bobby is confused on what to do with his lineup every night as a result.

One thing is for sure, Eric Hinske should not start a game the rest of the season in Left Field. That guy hasn’t hit since May, like Glaus. Go with Melky, Ankiel and J-Hey in the outfield and see how that works for a week. Forget all the lefty-righty crap, because that obviously isn’t working.

Keith

August 25th, 2010
9:47 am

It has been quite ironic, the way the Phillies get healthy and then can’t score more than 2 runs in 16 innings.

Only solace is that we have been losing to an above-average club at a stadium where the Rockies dominate. Phils have lost 2 games at home to a below-average club.

Now come on Braves! Go JJ. :)

Seemore Hiney

August 25th, 2010
9:48 am

The Braves stricken by the slump of the “Derek’s.” Derek Lowe and Derek Lee are hurting the Braves both on the mound and at the plate! They might be joining Nate Mclouth and Troy Glaus in Gwinnett if they aren’t careful.

Mike Jay

August 25th, 2010
9:49 am

Agree DD. You Cox bashers look foolish. He has a the least talented team posied to win the division and all you ca ndo is complain and moan. This is the first series the ywill be losing in forever. I think they have only lost 2-3 since the All star streak. Yet all the haters can do is point out the rare moves made by the manger that don’t pan out in the rare losses while ignoring all the ones that do. Of course the fact that the players have to actually perform is never debated just Cox’s percieved stupidity. It’s tiresome. Not a single one them expected the Braves to be in this position so they are grasping at straws to make themselves feel better. Get over yourselves. Bobby Cox is hall of fame manager and is not immune to the occasional mistake.

Let's Go

August 25th, 2010
9:49 am

Angus@09:39
You’re 100% right about McCann sitting last night. Perfect game for him because it was a LHP and now he can potentially play the next 4 games without any problem. People don’t like to look at the big picture they just like to rag Bobby.

Seemore Hiney

August 25th, 2010
9:49 am

The Braves stricken by the slump of the “Derek’s.” Derek Lowe and Derek Lee are hurting the Braves both on the mound and at the plate! They might be joining Nate Mclouth and Troy Glaus in Gwinnett if they aren’t careful.

Herschel Talker

August 25th, 2010
9:50 am

MB:

So you agree something is rotten in the state of Denmark? I refuse to believe that even in his worst slump that Lee would hit this way if his back for completely healthy.

HT

Mark Bradley

August 25th, 2010
9:51 am

I’m conceding nothing, Herschel. Just making an observation.

papadawg

August 25th, 2010
9:52 am

One of them is going to hit a hot streak and leave the other one in the dust and the loser is going to look back at this time and say what if

phils

August 25th, 2010
9:53 am

I am sorry to be the metaphorical rain on your parade but it is only a matter of time until the braves are two games behind the phils. if the umpire crew hadn’t screwed Howard twice in the last two nights things would be alot different right now. and to the one douche bag that said the braves have better pitching, you are an idiot. we have three guys who can carry the title of ace on any ballclub. so continue on with your dreams of a championship just to be let down in the end with the thought running through your head ” that phils fan that posted on our board was right, we do suck”.

Keith

August 25th, 2010
9:54 am

This series is another reason why the Braves must win the division and play at home at least during the first series in the playoffs. We need the Ted! :)

NCBravesFan

August 25th, 2010
9:55 am

Let’s Go @ 9:49 … co-signing you. The Braves haven’t been particularly strong on the road all year, and Colorado is a tough place for visiting teams to play. People are getting too worked up by two games, and not seeing the bigger picture.

Joey

August 25th, 2010
9:55 am

When Diaz whiffed on his bunt “attempt” (I use that word loosely), then ground into a double play, I was thoroughly pissed. Then the next batter, Gonzo homers . . .

Mark, is this the worst team at advancing runners that you’ve seen lately? Other teams, even the Nats, flawlessly bunt or hit behind the runners, and our none of our guys can do either.

When half of you lineup is slumping, sometimes you’ve got to play small-ball, and the Braves cannot do it.

asheville dawg

August 25th, 2010
9:56 am

At least the Phillies have some class not to go on a winning streak and blow the Braves out of the water. This we win, they win,we lose, they lose is quite entertaining. Now someone will get hot decide this division, sooner or later. Lets just hope the Bravos figure out something and quick.

papadawg

August 25th, 2010
9:56 am

Alright Phis fans you need to shut up, after all it’s the Astros kicking your butts At Home.

SG10

August 25th, 2010
10:01 am

Mark,

I suppose now D-Lowe knows how it feels to be Kawakami. They had identical ERA but skewed records for first few months due to great run support that D-Lowe continued to get. Lowe has been pitching quite well lately but so did Kawakami in few starts…not to say Kawakami was superb – far from it- but not being used for a month in the bullpen while Jesse Chavez (and now Farnsworth) kept blowing games up was ridiculous!…Of course, B Cox has been in the game longer than I have lived so I suppose he knows what he is doing…

Bushwacker

August 25th, 2010
10:01 am

Wow the Derek Lee is looking better everyday, NOT!!!

At least Troy makes contact.

Trading for a hurt player who had to clear waivers meaning no one else wanted him, screams of desperation!!!

It does not make sense, we are in first place “for now” and did not need Lee.

Can we do a Brett Farve and drive to Lawrenceville and bring Glaus back and just cut Lee who does not want to be here!!

SG10

August 25th, 2010
10:04 am

Mark,

I suppose Lowe now knows how it feels to be Kawakami. They had identical ERA but skewed records due to great run support that Lowe got. Of course, Lowe has pitched much better lately but so did Kawakami in few starts. Not saying that Kawakami was superb -far from it-but not using him in the pen for a month while Jesse Chavez (and now Farnsworth) kept blowing games was ridiculous.

Bushwacker

August 25th, 2010
10:04 am

I told you guys last week that YOU CAN’T SWING THE BAT WITH A BAD BACK, THOSE OF US WHO ACTUALLY PLAYED BALL KNOW THAT

P Rose

August 25th, 2010
10:07 am

I’m going through a little Braves-overload right now, so I’ve come up with a solution that I think will work for me. I simply don’t watch the game at all when Derek Lowe is pitching. That way, I get an occasional break, and avoid the inevitable same old letdown.

papadawg

August 25th, 2010
10:11 am

Exactly my concerns with Lee WAS how bad is his back but yaw wanted to replace my boy Glaus. ARE WE BETTER

Joey

August 25th, 2010
10:14 am

Um, Lowe pitched 7 innings and allowed 3 runs last nite. Huddy pitched 7 innings and gave up 4 runs Monday nite.

Mike Jay

August 25th, 2010
10:18 am

Phils,

You do realize that there is more to a pitching staff then just your top three starters right? Hudsun and JJ are about equal to the Phillies top two and then the Braes have Hanson and Lowe. Plus a left handed rookie who is killing it so far. Add that to one ofthe top 3 bullpens in baseball (bullpens actually do pitch you know) and you have have one the deepest and best pitching staffs in all of Baseball. Better than the Phillies who only go three deep. If I am wrong please find me one baseball journalist (who is not in Philly or Atl ) that says otherwise.

P.s. Blaming the umps for losses is a classic cop out. If your team is soo good why is their win/losses based on one player geting a bad call? Did he bat 3 times an inning? Did he play every postion? Did he pitch? Fact is The Braves are ahead of the Phillies and have been for awhile. Fact is the phillies are healthy now but still can’t score runs. Hate to rain on your dillusions of grandour but your team is seriously underperfoming and i would be embarassed to be a fan.

Matt

August 25th, 2010
10:19 am

Would still much rather have the PHillies lineup. The Braves don’t have a power threat. When was the last time a team won the WS with out a legit power threat????