A big series lost, the Braves must somehow salvage a game

Mike Minor walks to the clubhouse after being shelled Tuesday. (AP photo)

Rookie Mike Minor walks to the clubhouse after being shelled Tuesday night. (AP photo)

PHILADELPHIA – They’re not going to win the East. That fading dream was all but extinguished Tuesday night. They’re five games behind a demonstrably better team with 10 to go, which is another way of saying: Not happening.

But what the Braves cannot do is allow that five-game deficit to obscure the greater goal. They still lead the wild-card race. They’re still positioned to make the playoffs. To do it, however, they must not leave their heart in Philadelphia.

This was a big series for these Braves, and over the first two games they’ve been overmatched. They started two rookies against two classy veterans and paid the price. They flubbed most of the chances they created. They haven’t looked like a playoff team here, but they still can be one. They just have to remember how to play baseball.

On this night they forgot. Facing the estimable Roy Halladay, who needs little help, they nonetheless aided and abetted his 20th victory of 2010. In the third inning of a 0-0 game Rick Ankiel drew a leadoff walk, bringing to bat the rookie pitcher Mike Minor, who has never had a big-league hit. Everybody in the ballyard expected a bunt. Minor swung and grounded into a double play, prompting everybody in the ballyard to say, ”Huh?”

Said Braves manager Bobby Cox, speaking of Minor: “He missed the [bunt] sign.”

OK, it happens. It happens especially with rookies in pressurized games. But what to make of the most decorated healthy Brave, whose double off the wall nearly tied the game in the sixth and still left his team in prime position to equalize. Men on second and third, nobody out. Derrek Lee hoists a deep fly to center field. Martin Prado tags and scores. And Brian McCann decides to advance to third base and is thrown out by five feet. Huh?

Said Cox: “He thought he could make it … There’s no ‘coaching’ on that.”

Is it possible to focus so hard that you get distracted? The Braves were addled from the first. Prado and Nate McLouth both pulled up short and let foul balls drop ungloved. Prado fumbled away a grounder. Kyle Farnsworth threw a ball over Lee’s head. And McCann, who dodged the media after the game, had a passed ball. Only the Phillies’ inability to deliver the key hit — they left 12 men aboard — kept this from being the rout it should have been.

Minor was … well, not major. He threw 73 pitches and retired seven Phillies. He yielded seven hits and a walk. He left trailing 3-0, and he was lucky it was so close. He’s in the rotation only because Kris Medlen hurt his arm in August, and with Jair Jurrjens having missed his start Monday the Braves have essentially dispatched Hickory High School to face the Los Angeles Lakers. But that’s who these Braves are: A threadbare bunch assembled on a shoestring budget.

They’ve done well to get where they are. Indeed, earlier Tuesday, Cox called this “the hardest-working team I’ve ever had” and conceded that “a lot of balls have bounced our way.” It’s possible the Braves have run short of both talent and luck at exactly the same moment.

That said, it doesn’t take either talent or luck to play smart baseball. And these Braves still should have enough resources to carry them through these final 10 games and into the playoffs — provided they maximize them. Their better pitchers have to have only big starts from here on, and this limited lineup must muster some level of support.

There’s no shame in not being as good as the Phillies: Nobody else in the National League has been as good as these Phils for a while now. The shame would be in having what still can be a sweet season ruined by one dud series. The Braves need to win behind Tommy Hanson on Wednesday to prove to themselves they’re still capable of winning. It sounds strange, but here goes:

Having already lost the biggest series of the year, the Braves can still salvage their biggest win of the year.

580 comments Add your comment

Phillies Phan

September 21st, 2010
11:05 pm

First NO clue why you do this but I will

BravesFaninAugusta

September 21st, 2010
11:06 pm

Mark Bradley

September 21st, 2010
11:06 pm

Kudos, Phillies Phan. And it’s an Atlanta thing.

tipyourcap.com

September 21st, 2010
11:06 pm

gotta tip your cap..

Reid Adair

September 21st, 2010
11:06 pm

It is perhaps Bobby Cox’s hardest-working team. This collection of mediocre “talent” that Frank Wren added to the roster left no option but to work hard.

What they’ve accomplished to just be in contention is, honestly, remarkable. The match-ups for San Francisco, San Diego and Colorado the rest of the way don’t make the wild card favorable.

It’s sad that Wren created this disaster of a roster for Cox’s last season.

SG10

September 21st, 2010
11:07 pm

Good article, as always, to the point..

SG10

September 21st, 2010
11:10 pm

I hope Phillies have peaked early and go dud in the post-season, assuming Braves get there too..it is quite difficult for them to sustain this level of play, no matter how good they are..

Phillies Phan

September 21st, 2010
11:10 pm

I really hope the the Phil’s win tomorrow and then the Braves rally for the wildcard. Phillies Braves NLCS would be awesome.

Phillies Phan

September 21st, 2010
11:11 pm

SG10… Have you not seen this team the last few years. The peek in September and October. June and July was the Braves time October is the Phillies time

BravesFaninAugusta

September 21st, 2010
11:13 pm

Excellent article Mark, you’re exactly right. Sad thing is this club isn’t fun to watch anymore and
I’m already looking forward to next year. This team has overachieved and is finished. Too bad the season isn’t 152 games long….. We need a big-time OFer to sign in the off-season (Werth?) and we’ll be in great shape.

philee fan

September 21st, 2010
11:13 pm

good luck to you guys as I will always root for divisional teams over teams from the west.
Pick yourselves up (after tomorrows loss) and win the wild card. See you in the playoffs Lanta

Darin

September 21st, 2010
11:14 pm

Gotta get that wildcard…the Marlins used it twice to win the World Series.

Herschel Talker

September 21st, 2010
11:15 pm

MB:

Truth is that the Braves haven’t played terribly this series, but Philly is just an unstoppable force right now. But this sure doesn’t look like one of the top 2 teams in the NL right now, like you insinuated yesterday. They still are making too many mental and fielding errors to be considered one of the best. But the wild card race is theirs to lose, so let’s hope they get well against the Nationals.

HT

SG10

September 21st, 2010
11:15 pm

It is quite confusing on which team to root for in NL west…I would prefer to see Padres winning NL west – first, since Braves have good record against them and second, win by Padres with mostly bunch of nobodies gives hopes to so many teams that they can turn things around without star players..Ideal situation would be all three teams in NL west lose and one of them wins by little margin to win the division.

philee fan

September 21st, 2010
11:16 pm

You guys have your work cut out for you as west coast noncontenders will roll over and play dead for frisco,, sand d and colorado. dodgers suck as do diamondbacks, Good luck

MM

September 21st, 2010
11:18 pm

The Braves are toast.

philee fan

September 21st, 2010
11:19 pm

OH sorry,, but I forgot to say GO PHILLIES. World Series bound.

Phillies Phan

September 21st, 2010
11:19 pm

I am going to miss beating the LA Dodgers in the playoffs. Beating Broxton is awesome

JASon

September 21st, 2010
11:19 pm

Now that the division is out of reach, there’s nothing to play for. Right chipper?

Peter

September 21st, 2010
11:21 pm

What we are seeing now is the future with Wren at the helm….it looks ugly !

philee fan

September 21st, 2010
11:21 pm

Enter your comments here

philee fan

September 21st, 2010
11:23 pm

phan,, I agree,, we can start a new tradition,,beating someone else

philee fan

September 21st, 2010
11:27 pm

with Phillies and Vick what an exciting autumn this will be. you guys are welcome on the bandwagon as there is always room. GO PHILLIES

SG10

September 21st, 2010
11:28 pm

Phillies Phan, there is no doubt that when on fire, Phillies team is the best in NL but the best team doesn’t always win it all… Braves teams of 96 and 98 can attest that..three 20 game winners in 1998. People can say all they want about it being Bobby’s fault, I think role of the manager in a given series is overrated..yes, over 162 games it does play a role…there is no explanation why different personalities such as Bobby Cox, Piniella, La Russa, Guillen would each have world series win…many things have to go right for the team to win it all..we will see if this is Phillies year again but won’t be surprised if it isn’t.

kwajbraves

September 21st, 2010
11:28 pm

Phillies Phan:I really hope the the Phil’s win tomorrow and then the Braves rally for the wildcard. Phillies Braves NLCS would be awesome.

UH! How this series would be awesome? Braves are second tier team and the Phils are the best team in the NL. I’ve been a Braves fan for almost 30 years but to say that we are in the same class than the Phils is ludicrous. We are as Mr. Bradley eloquently said above an overachieving team which is good enough to compete and that what this team is doing competing and playing their hearts out but they are and will be overmatch by a far superior team. No shame in admitting that but what is painful to swallow is that we folded against Nats and Pirates.

Break: SF 1, CHC: 0. Buster just hit a HR.

Rooferdawg

September 21st, 2010
11:29 pm

I am very proud of this team. They have very little talent, and have hung onto the lead for almost 4 months. Not enough offense on this team to win in the playoffs. Now, thinking about next year worries me. Still have Lowe’s and KKs salary on the books. The only change, will be Freeman for Lee at first, and you have the same team coming back next year, with no money to spend to get a free agent. Also, as much as I thank Chipper for all he has given to this team over the years, he makes 15 million and will not produce anything like those numbers should. Pitching will return the same, but Prado and Infante are just backups at best. Yes, I know Prado has led the team in average all year, but his defense is bad and will not help a team win a championship. Lastly,, there is no more help in the minors. Good luck to these Braves and I am still watching every game from my new home in China. Also, Go Dawgs

steve

September 21st, 2010
11:30 pm

The Yankees will destroy Philly.

Mitchell

September 21st, 2010
11:31 pm

Oh, you think?

Good call Brad.

I love the headline on the main page. “Braves Lose.”

Where have I heard that one before?

Jim H

September 21st, 2010
11:32 pm

Mark,
I have enjoyed your comments. They were classy as well as interesting. I’m a Phillies fan so I want them to win, but I do want the Braves make the playoffs. The 162 game season is such a grind, it’s a shame both teams are not completely healthy. The games would be even better. I do believe the Phils and Braves will meet in the playoffs. They are the best two teams in the NL in my opinion. Good luck tomorrow, and with the rest of the regular season. Hope to see you mid October.

Mitchell

September 21st, 2010
11:34 pm

Good Lord, I hope so.

I’ve never wanted to see the Yankees win a World Series more in my life.

I actually rooted for the Phillies last year because at no point were we in first place.

I figured they deserved to be there and plus I hate the Yankees in ways I can’t describe.

But I’ve changed my mind. I’d rather see the Yankees win five World Series in a row than see the Phillies win a single playoff game.

I’d rather see the Marlins win another World Series than the Phillies.

philee fan

September 21st, 2010
11:38 pm

Steve,,, you wish,,, yankees are 5-5 in last 10 and looking very human,, Admit it, Phillies are at this moment the best team in baseball and the odds on favorite to win it all. SG10,, and please don’t confuse us with the chokers of 96 and 98. we have won it before and will win it again. GO PHILLIES.

Young

September 21st, 2010
11:38 pm

lol, Mitchell, that is hilarious! and i totally understand how you feel. when the mets played the braves last series, i couldn’t get myself to root for the mets… just couldn’t do it. so, i can see how rooting for the phillies is anathema.

rc35

September 21st, 2010
11:39 pm

After a long, exciting summer, it hurts to see the Braves expose their two greatest weaknesses–lack of hitting and poor defense–while adding unconscionable baserunning to them. I still hope for the wild card, but this is almost as bad as the Phillie Phlop of 1964. Hey, there’s always time for one more…wouldn’t THAT be great?

Rooferdawg

September 21st, 2010
11:39 pm

Jim H,,,,, You are a classy sports fan, and I thank you for your good post here. Unlike the other Philly Fans that come here just to start an argument, you sir, are a great sports fan. Thanks again

Young

September 21st, 2010
11:40 pm

btw, i hope the phillies give Cox a classy and respectful send off. he deserves it.

philee fan

September 21st, 2010
11:41 pm

Mitchell,,, what happened to make you feel this way ?? did someone from Philly insult you,, hurt your puppy, what ?

TTTT-Thumbody Thed Thats Thupid!

September 21st, 2010
11:42 pm

Watching the Braves the last two games was like living in the “Twilight Zone”. It was as if Cox was trying to lose these two games. Why? I have not the foggiest idea. Granted he does not have the A1 material necessary to win the division, but some of his decisions were juvenile, and he shows no common sense and logic. He has the experience and many, many years in tenure, yet even the average man could see what needed to be done in certain situations. Maybe it’s just senility and stubborness. When he brought Dunn in tonight I was yelling at the TV, “no, no, no you idiot, bring in Kimbrel!” Yep, he brought him in later, one inning too late. I got so mad then, I just turned it and didn’t know what happened until later. He drives me BANANAS! To keep my sanity I can’t watch.

B2Tall

September 21st, 2010
11:43 pm

Correct me if I’m wrong but it’s highly unlikely the Phils and Braves would meet in the NLCS. Philly will more than likely finish with the best record in the NL thereby setting up a first round matchup with the Wild Card team – probably the Braves.

The only way there could be a Philly/Atlanta NLCS is if the Phils falter down the stretch and Cincy winds up with the best record. In that case Philly would play the West winner and Cincy would play the Braves. Both teams would have to win their respective series to advance to the NLCS.

In any case it’ll probably be Philly/Atlanta in the first round.

philee fan

September 21st, 2010
11:45 pm

sorry braves fans,, but frisco beat chicago and san d is up 5-0. don’t look good.

But ,, keep hope alive.

What the hells going on out there

September 21st, 2010
11:45 pm

Two greatest weaknesses??? what about the porous starting pitching we have had…

philee fan

September 21st, 2010
11:46 pm

b2,, “if” you win the card

Tyler Eliott

September 21st, 2010
11:47 pm

Its been said before here, but while I want the Phillies to win tomorrow and take the Division, I do hope the Braves make the wildcard. You guys had a great season and it would be a shame if you didn’t get into postseason

TTTT-Thumbody Thed Thats Thupid!

September 21st, 2010
11:47 pm

B2Tall, if I’m not mistaken, two teams from the same division cannot meet in the first round.

Peter

September 21st, 2010
11:48 pm

114 errors and counting……..

Team Redneck

September 21st, 2010
11:49 pm

Mitchell– get over your childishness. NO ONE IN THE RIGHT MIND can possibly root for the despicable New York Yankees. THey have TWICE the payroll of these Phillies. They will be vying to steal Jason Heyward from you down the road. If the Braves rallied to take us down in the division and beat us int he playoffs and faced the yankees in the world series. . .even then I would still root for them against the Yankees. You dont want more dumb teens walking around in yanks hats, do you ? Snap your bitter streak. . .phils are just a team that is peaking dynasty wise, we have the most losses of any professional sports team in america, so it’s not like we’re the evil empire.

steve– the yankees will destroy the phillies ? come again ?. . this phils team now has 3 ‘aces’ for the psotseason, whereas last year we had a crumpy pedro, joe blanton, and a terrible hamels. the yankees pitching is very shaky now outside of CC. . and they lost 2 great postseason stars in Damon and Matsui. At this point i think the Twins are more likely to come out of the AL then the Yanks.

To the rest of you– at this point BRAVES GETTING SWEPT IS A GOOD THING if you take a step back and realize that it’ll just ensure that phils wrap up home-field early and have nothing to play for in the last week. . thereby BRAVES WILL THEN SWEEP THE PHILLY SCRUBS in the last series and get the wildcard. Get that logic?

Mike

September 21st, 2010
11:50 pm

Mark,

You hit the nail on the head. This team is just not good enough. They have been winning on hard work, high energy, and good luck. And that energy and luck has run out.

This team is lifeless.
They have played some of the worst fielding baseball I have ever seen as a fan.

I really think the loss of Chipper was the beginning of the fall. Prado has failed at 3rd, Infante has come back down to earth, and this line-up is way to inconsistent. It has no leader (Mac needs to be that leader for us, be he has not stepped up yet). Even when Chipper wasn’t hitting, he brought a sense of strength to the line-up. Like the glue that would hold it together. (I really hope he can come back next year)

Frank Wren didn’t do them any favors with some poor in season moves, Bobby has made some bad managerial decisions in his stubbornness and refusal to field the best team every night in favor of his lefty/righty crap (Melky and Ankiel should not be playing. I trust Mclouth’s and Diaz’s ability to come through more than them). And I think it was a big mistake to not line up your best pitchers to face the Phils. it sends the wrong message if you ask me. And in the end, should the series go any other way? We started to rookies for crying out loud. One on his first start. And these guys aren’t Steven Strasburgs. Plus I think that Bobby cant lead this team the way it needs to be led anymore.

This team looks done to me. i hope I am wrong, but they look weak, tired, over matched, and like they don’t belong with any of the playoff contending teams.

Plus with the Padres winning we will be only one game ahead, but even in the lose column, so basically tied.

I dont think we make the playoffs. I think that would be the biggest disappointment in years.

TTTT-Thumbody Thed Thats Thupid!

September 21st, 2010
11:51 pm

I had a long post(not too long) about 5 mins ago and it never showed up. Guess I should not have mentioned “The Twilight Zone” in it, may be where it went. Now I forgot what I said. GEEEEZZZZ LOUEEEEZZZZ!

Team Redneck

September 21st, 2010
11:51 pm

B2– you are wrong. wild card never plays within their division in the first round, its just a rule in place.

Steve Carlton

September 21st, 2010
11:54 pm

Let me see if I get this right…………

The Braves go into their biggest series of the year – they can come out dead even with the Phillies or six games back. Numbers – you can’t dispute numbers.

So the Phillies, seeing a chance to knock the Braves out of contention allowing them to rest their veterans and set their rotation for the playoffs set it up so the Braves face their top three starters in front of a packed house of rabid fans.

The Braves counter with their top three, right? Wrong!

You put up a AAA pitcher against Cole Hamels the first night, a rookie against 20-game winning Halladay the second night and finally you put up Hanson against the hottest pitcher of the three for the Phillies, Roy Oswalt on the third night.

Barring catastrophe, the Phillies take the first two games and you’re now down by 5 games with 10 to go.

That is exactly what happened. The Phillies are now sitting pretty and gearing up for the post season and all you Braves fans can shake your head and wonder exactly who is it that annointed your manager as a genius? Is he resting his starters for that golf tournament in October?

Invictus2010

September 21st, 2010
11:56 pm

Dear Mr. Bradley,

Is it OK to be an angry Braves fan??? Because being a Braves fan in Phillies’s country SUCKS after the team traded a 7 game lead for a 5 game deficit. How should I feel?