Swept in Philly and nearly no-hit, the beaten Braves move on

Tommy Hanson: Six innings, two hits, no runs, one fine outing. (AP photo)

Tommy Hanson's night: Six innings, two hits, no runs, one fine outing. (AP photo)

PHILADELPHIA — They got the start they needed. Alas, they got nothing else. Heck, they nearly got no-hit.

They came here thinking one win — one crummy win — would leave them in good stead for the wild card. Instead they got swept. They weren’t overwhelmed in any of the games, which made it even worse. Three nights running, the Braves got to see firsthand how vast the expanse is between them and the Phillies.

“We got beat all three games,” Brian McCann said. “We were in every ballgame. We just got beat.”

Wednesday’s loss was sweet excruciation. Tommy Hanson matched Roy Oswalt for six innings, and Roy Oswalt was all but untouchable over his seven. (The Braves’ one hit was Martin Prado’s two-out double in the fourth.) In the eighth Jonny Venters opened by plunking Chase Utley, but induced Ryan Howard to hit into a double play.

Then Venters pitched around the right-handed hitting Jayson Werth, which made sense. Then he fell behind Raul Ibanez 2-0 and tried to throw a sinker. The ball didn’t sink. Ibanez, a pro’s pro, poked it into the left-field corner, and Nate McLouth overthrew the cutoff man and the Phillies had the run they needed. And the Braves had an 0-for-Philly.

McCann: “It ain’t easy for a left-handed hitter [meaning Ibanez] to hit a 95-mph sinker into the left-field corner. You tip your hat. And we move on.”

The Braves needed this game to prove to themselves that they could beat the Phillies when it mattered, and all it proved was that they couldn’t. Hanson did what neither of the rookie starters deployed in Games 1 and 2 could manage: He gave his team a chance to win. His team, sorry to say, wasn’t good enough to avail itself. His team is running on fumes.

The Braves had more errors (five) in the series than runs (four). Yes, they ran face-first into the Phillies’ Big Three, but if you plan on playing postseason baseball, you’d better be ready to face top-shelf pitching. All the Braves could think to try was another oddball lineup — McLouth in left and Rick Ankiel in center — against the Roys (Halladay and Oswalt), and here were the two-night totals for the twosome:

Thirteen at-bats, one single, four strikeouts.

“We couldn’t have done much better,” manager Bobby Cox said after Wednesday’s loss, and that assessment sounded at once pitiful and pithy. The Braves have tried everything this season and have gotten further than they probably should have, and now it’s down to this: Nine games to go, the wild card blowing in the wind.

McCann: “This is our season. We’ve got nine games left. We have to be able to get up for these.”

Motivation wasn’t the issue here. The Braves tried their best. The Phillies’ best was just better. Cox even broke with custom before Wednesday’s game. “I talked to the team today,” he said afterward. Then this: “We’re trying to win a game.”

They couldn’t win even once here, but late Wednesday they boarded a chartered Amtrak car for the trek down to D.C., where they’ll meet the last-place Washington Nationals. Then they return home for the season’s final week — six games against the Marlins and the Phillies, and the latter will surely have clinched the National League East by the time they arrive at Turner Field.

Meaning: For all that went wrong here, the Braves should still be able to draw the wild card. (With San Francisco losing in Chicago on Wednesday, the Braves were assured of staying atop the runner-up race at least another day.) They spent three days proving they’re no longer a match for the Phillies, but that’s no longer the issue. The Braves simply have to win as many games as they can and hope it’s enough.

Before the game, Cox had said: “I wouldn’t mind seeing a ‘WC’ [for wild card] up on the wall of our ballpark.” In previous seasons the Braves were always the team winning division titles and letting lesser lights claim the ‘WC’, but in 2010 it’s their only real hope. A big series was lost in egregious fashion, and now they move on.

321 comments Add your comment

philee fan

September 22nd, 2010
10:56 pm

where is everybody ???

SG10

September 22nd, 2010
10:56 pm

Good article, Let’s hope things turn around starting Friday!

philee fan

September 22nd, 2010
10:58 pm

padres winning, braves out of wildcard lead

philee fan

September 22nd, 2010
11:00 pm

ok guys follow me,,, Go Phillies.

SG10

September 22nd, 2010
11:00 pm

Mark,

I asked you on the other ‘Live blog’..what do you think about starting Ankiel in these past two games..I mean the guy hasn’t figured it out for 152 games, why would he do it in the last 10?..I thought part of the reason Braves traded Francouer is that he was an easy out despite his strong defense then why play Ankiel. I can understand if he comes in as a defensive replacement with the Braves lead..shouldn’t we have started Diaz or Cabrera?

Disgusted

September 22nd, 2010
11:02 pm

Mark Bradley

September 22nd, 2010
11:03 pm

SG10, they just don’t have enough outfielders. They’ve really only got one — Heyward.

SG10

September 22nd, 2010
11:05 pm

Wouldn’t Cabrera and Diaz be an upgrade over Ankiel who again continued striking out today? It is not just this series since everyone has struggled but he has been awful for long long time now..

Mark Bradley

September 22nd, 2010
11:06 pm

You’d think anybody would be an upgrade.

dawgfan37

September 22nd, 2010
11:07 pm

That’s why I am glad this is Bobby Cox last year. Rick Ankiel should be on the bench and not see the light of day.

wawel78

September 22nd, 2010
11:08 pm

and as bad as Ankiel is, he’s hitting 40 points above McLouth for the season. McLouth had 2 good weeks, raised his batting avg to 189 and all of a sudden, he’s a world beater.

Mark Bradley

September 22nd, 2010
11:08 pm

And the Braves will not be out of the wild-card lead no matter what the Padres do. If San Diego wins, it passes the Giants and becomes the NL West leader. The Giants would be a half-game behind Atlanta in the WC race. If San Diego loses, it stays a half-game behind the Giants in the West and the Braves in the WC.

DCBravosFan

September 22nd, 2010
11:08 pm

wow . . this was a kick in the pants . . . tough to stay positive after these last three games . . . Mark, what was the feeling in the clubhouse, do these guys still think that they can get the wildcard?

BravesFaninAugusta

September 22nd, 2010
11:08 pm

Phillies fans: go find another blog

wawel78

September 22nd, 2010
11:09 pm

Also, I’m glad Bobby got what he wanted and took KK out of the rotation. Minor has been a wonderful substitute.

Mark Bradley

September 22nd, 2010
11:09 pm

Yes, they do, DCBravosFan. Ballplayers are optimists.

DCBravosFan

September 22nd, 2010
11:10 pm

THey do still control their own destiny . . they just gotta get some wins here in DC . . . must take care of business with the Nats!!!

todd

September 22nd, 2010
11:11 pm

I am DONE watching the Braves. I have always defended Bobby Cox and could never figure out why many people didn’t like him. Now I know – because he is inept. Can someone explain to me why he started the first two games of the most important series in at least 4 years with two pitchers who do not have 3 months worth of major league experience between them. Funny how the Phillies thought the games were important enough to make sure that there top 3 started each game.Why does he keep Ankiel in when he is an automatic out (and there are plenty of other options). If they are not going to take the games seriously then why should we. Go Falcons!

bascogcjs

September 22nd, 2010
11:11 pm

Mark, Diaz is a definite upgrade. Ask about Nate’s lack of effor when he throws. It is pitiful.

Craig

September 22nd, 2010
11:12 pm

I am glad Bobby is going, it is time. I am glad that he will be taking Terry with him.

Mark Bradley

September 22nd, 2010
11:12 pm

Is Diaz an upgrade against right-handed pitching?

SG10

September 22nd, 2010
11:12 pm

It is likely that Braves would have lost anyway but all that manager can do is use fundamentals and put the right players by using the best judgment and not just going by his hunch…Overall, Cox has managed this season superb and if Braves get WC ahead of SD then he deserves manager of the year..but quite often he makes some stubborn moves that baffle me..there are no Greg Norton moves this year but Ankiel move is getting pretty close…and at bad time.

Eric C.

September 22nd, 2010
11:13 pm

It will be a huge shame if the Braves can’t take the wild card this year…man, a real shame. It’s almost like there is nothing left in the tank, and yet they still have to play the Phillies three more games. Thankfully, the Phillies should have the division and home field advantage wrapped up by the time they come to Atlanta, meaning they may give the starters some rest. It’s not the way I want to see the Braves make it into the postseason, but it sure beats the heck out of the alternative. Come on Braves…get that second wind and run off 6 or 7 straight.

DCBravosFan

September 22nd, 2010
11:13 pm

God bless the optimists in that clubhouse . . . I hope that the folks on the blog continue to keep the faith as well! Let’s send Bobby out with a bang . . . if we can’t do that, let’s at least keep the faith until the bitter end!

Neil

September 22nd, 2010
11:14 pm

The optimists optimist will tell you only one of these games featured a playoff pitching matchup. The Braves lost that game 1-0 on the road. You have to get in for that to matter, but that’s your Sgt. Friday “Just the Facts” thing to keep in mind.

philee fan

September 22nd, 2010
11:14 pm

SG10

September 22nd, 2010
11:14 pm

Compared to Ankiel, Diaz will be an upgrade..and he has shown that he can hit right handed pitching…even if he hits 0.200 it would still be an upgrade over Ankiels 0.000 average, right?

CSpin

September 22nd, 2010
11:17 pm

The Phils are on phire which makes for major philly phrustration for the bravos.

Eric C.

September 22nd, 2010
11:17 pm

To all the folks complaining about how this was the most important series…forget it. This was not the most important series because the Braves never had a real shot at winning the division. Realists gave up on that when the Phillies passed the Braves, but the wild card has been and still is a very achieveable goal and that makes the Phillies series no less or no more important than the National series. Cox is not going to mess up the flow of the season to win a series that most likely will not determine the Braves playoff fate.

SG10

September 22nd, 2010
11:18 pm

These are the type of games when we really miss Chipper..he is the only one who can get hits against great pitching.. Last year we had two clutch hitters in McCann and LaRoche..three if you count Escobar..McCann has really had down year this year..the hit he had in the All-star game is his game..but he hasn’t done that for the Braves this season..and nobody else has filled in on the regular basis, particularly on the road.

philee fan

September 22nd, 2010
11:18 pm

bradley,, i stand corrected,, darn giants had to go and lose,,, well there is plenty of time left for the braves to blow it,,,lol

Hillbilly Deluxe

September 22nd, 2010
11:19 pm

SG10

September 22nd, 2010
11:20 pm

When you consider that top three guys get on base regularly but the number 4 onwards don’t drive them in..that explains poor average with RISP.

Neil

September 22nd, 2010
11:20 pm

And philee fan– there’s a seven game series where you won’t see two rookies for ya’ll to blow it. Hope that happens in October.

SG10

September 22nd, 2010
11:22 pm

Tomorrow will be the big day despite Braves not playing..since other teams play and they have same number of losses, tomorrow will determine the actual lead, if any, that braves will have.

voice of reason

September 22nd, 2010
11:23 pm

The Braves have gotten away with their defensive deficiencies all year long. Now, those problems have finally bitten them in the rear end, right when it counts – is that that how it normally works in September and October?

McCann is a train wreck behind the plate – failing to block balls, back handing outside pitches, etc. If he needed to throw out a runner trying to steal right-center field, he’d be deadly back there.

philee fan

September 22nd, 2010
11:24 pm

actually I do have an NL East bias and hope that the braves can hold on to the card,, but the road record scares me. Question now is did the Phillies take their heart ? We will see

will ferrell

September 22nd, 2010
11:24 pm

these dudes are too jolly to let something like a sweep get them down…maybe they’ll watch anchorman before the nats series

nashvillewill

September 22nd, 2010
11:26 pm

Mark,
The Braves, of course, still have a good shot at the WC if they can shake off Philly. Pitching matchups are favorable. Braves should be motivated. Can we agree that if they lose 2 of 3 to the Nats they don’t merit any postseason?
Also, it ain’t gonna happen, but I like Infante in LF and Conrad at 3B or 2B. McLouth’s throwing has been an issue all year. Does he have a dead arm? Rotate Diaz, Melky, Ankiel, and McLouth in LF or CF then release them all at the end. Spend offseason acquiring CF,3B project, SS and backup defensive catcher–McCann is horrible defensively.
Is Freddy Gonzales the choice for manager? I don’t want TP or Torre.

BravesAreDone

September 22nd, 2010
11:26 pm

We don’t know whether Diaz is because Bobby is too stubborn to try him. Instead he keeps throwing Ankiel out there. Also, McClouth has been terrible all season then he went on that tiny stretch recently where he got like 9 hits in 25 at bats or whatever, now you can’t yank him out of the lineup. I too am glad Bobby is leaving at this season. I thank him for all he’s done, but his inability to make proper changes is destroying this team.

philee fan

September 22nd, 2010
11:26 pm

Neil,, As long as the big three show up,, bring them on,,, Plus as I said many times here,,, Pitching did not kill Braves,, defense(or lack of it) did. The most impressive part of braves play this week was your young pitchers.

Dean

September 22nd, 2010
11:27 pm

Actually, this isn’t all doom and gloom. Philly is on fire. Honestly, you won’t play a hotter team than that. We were in all of these games. 2 of these games, errors killed us. No doubt, one measley big hit could have changed all three games. Not one blowout. You pick up and ralize you just played the best to three great finishes. Now, take that and win the games you are supposed to win. i od wonder if Philly has the division captured if they will rest their starters. Could prove a huge deal next weekend. this wasn’t the kind of defeats that end a season. but they better pick each other up and start beating the teams behind them. Not doing so the past several weeks is what has us in this position. Go Braves!!!

extremus

September 22nd, 2010
11:29 pm

Mr. Bradley,

Why is it that I keep having my posts delayed when posting on your blogs? Is there any way to avoid that on my end? I don’t think I did anything against the rules.

SwampFox in South Ga.

September 22nd, 2010
11:29 pm

We did not get many breaks on balls hit this series. McCann and Prado just missed homers. And the Phils hit a game winner on a double that hits the chalk. So much of baseball comes down to when you catch a team
and let’s face it the Phillies are playing great in every part of the game right now.

SwampFox in South Ga.

September 22nd, 2010
11:31 pm

Good post Dean. I agree 100%

KEV

September 22nd, 2010
11:32 pm

Philee fan we still have the Wild Card lead because the Giants lost, which means that the Padres will lead the West if they win.

Charlie Manuel's Colon

September 22nd, 2010
11:32 pm

Thanks for your previous prediction, Bradley. The Braves really emptied their bowels during this series. So long, losers!!!

Navigator

September 22nd, 2010
11:32 pm

Haven’t you figured it out yet, BCox will only play (even keep in the past) that he trust to fit his mold of what a player should be, and Ankiel fits it. I said when the season opened, that this would be a lost season with Cox making his farewell, and now it looks like they’re going to do the same for Chipper next year. The management is very sensitive about what happened to Glavine and Smoltz when their time came (and they wouldn’t take the hint), so I guess we sit through another lame duck season with Chipper next year. Are far as the team goes, they need to either develop or go free agency for 3 hitters next year, and they need a new pitching coach. Next don’t let Chipper set the tone for the team, we need fire here, and he is all laid back and subverts anyone that isn’t like him.

philee fan

September 22nd, 2010
11:33 pm

swamp fox,, that is a breath of fresh air to hear such reality,,,

jer

September 22nd, 2010
11:33 pm

The reason Cox used 2 rookie starters is that he had no choice – JJ and Medlin were injured and he has no confidence in KK. Perhaps if he had handled KK better in late June/July aftered pitching a one run game for six innings by using him at least in blowouts instead of letting him rot on the bench KK might have been useful in September as an emergency starter, but other than that he had no choice left but to use rookie pitchers. However, I agree that Diaz and Cabrera were better choices for the outfield.