If the Braves were going to make a statement in the month of May, these past two weekends have given them more than enough time, especially with 6 games against the Phillies separated by three with the Nationals.
After dropping the first game Friday, 5-4, the Braves took the next two, 5-3 and 3-2, thus taking two of three from the Phillies a week after doing the same in Philadelphia.
Friday’s opener did not start off well for the Braves, as Brandon Beachy found himself down 3-0 before his teammates were able to swing the bats.
But the Braves scratched back, manufacturing a run in the bottom of the 1st when Chipper’s single scored Martin Prado and added two more in the 5th when Beachy’s replacement, Cristian Martinez, doubled to drive in two and tie the game.
Alex Gonzalez scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the 6th, but after Eric O’Flaherty was unable to do what he had a week before as he gave up the go-ahead runs.
Martinez, who relieved Beachy after the starter strained his oblique swinging in the bottom of the 2nd, pitched 4 perfect innings, striking out 4 batters before making way for the back end of the bullpen.
With the bullpen getting a fair share of work over the past few days, the Braves sent Jair Jurrjens to the hill, hoping he was able to continue his strong start to 2011.
What the Braves, as well as their fans saw, was JJ flirt with perfection, taking a perfect game into the top of the 6th before giving up a two-out double.
After JJ retired the first three Phillie hitters, he was given a quick two-run cushion, as Prado and Nate McLouth, hitting in the 2-hole in Jason Heyward’s stead, hit back-to-back home runs, giving the Braves an early 2-0 lead.
The Phillies broke through in that 6th inning with one run, but the Braves tacked on three more in the bottom half, as David Ross’ drag bunt scored Dan Uggla and Prado’s single scored two more, putting the Braves up 5-1.
The Phillies added two more in the bottom of the 8th, but Craig Kimbrel came in and locked down the game, earning his 9th save of the year and sealing JJ’s 5th win.
In Sunday’s finale, which MLB had already tabbed as it’s Civil Rights Game, both teams sent their aces to the hill in Tim Hudson and Roy Halladay.
This was a game that showed just how resilient the Braves can be, as in the 4th, Uggla and Eric Hinske each reached on broken bat singles before Freddie Freeman’s comebacker bounced off Halladay’s glove and trickled to where Jimmy Rollins wasn’t, allowing Uggla to score and Freeman to reach with an infield hit.
The Phillies got on the board and took the lead after John Mayberry’s two-run homer, but the Braves again manufactured another run off Halladay, as Freeman’s sacrifice fly scored Uggla.
With Uggla scoring the first two runs of the game, it was only fitting that he drill Halladay’s 3-2 offering over the fence in left center, giving the Braves a 3-2 lead heading into the 9th.
Once again, Kimbrel came in with the task of closing the Phillies down, and he did not disappoint, giving up a leadoff walk before getting Rollins to fly to left to end the game, as Kimbrel earned his 9th save. Jonny Venters pitched the 8th for his 3rd win.
If the Braves learned anything from this series, especially after the series with Washington, it’s that this team’s pitching staff can shut down any opposing offense and give it’s own offense time to mount a rally against a pitcher as good as Halladay.
With the annual interleague matchups looming, the Braves have two quick two-game sets, the first at home against Houston before heading on the road for another West Coast trip starting in Arizona before hitting Anaheim.
But before the Braves can look ahead to the cooler weather out west, they must concentrate on the Astros
In Monday’s opener, Tommy Hanson (4-3) goes opposite Brett Myers (1-3), a pitcher the Braves have seen more than enough when he was in Philadelphia from 2002-10, when he was traded for Roy Oswalt.
Derek Lowe (3-3) toes the slab against Wandy Rodriguez (2-3) in Tuesday’s finale. After the Astros won his first three starts of the year, they have gone 1-4 in his last 5 starts.
Keys to the series
- Continue to manufacture runs
- The Braves did a great job getting runners on base and into scoring position against the Phillies, and will need to continue to do so as the season rolls on.
- Make their pitchers work
- It may feel as if I am beating a dead horse, but the more a pitcher works, the better a batter sees his pitches. Note - Uggla’s last AB vs. Halladay
- Keep the magic going
- Every team poses different challenges, but as long as the Braves continue to play as they have been in May, excluding a few games, the magic will remain all season long
Notes: Chipper sat out Sunday’s finale with a slight tear in the meniscus in his right knee. He is expected to be out for the next 2-3 days and could undergo arthroscopic surgery to fix the problem if the discomfort remains.. Beachy was placed on the 15-day DL with a strained oblique, retro-active May 15.. Heyward might return for Tuesday’s finale after missing the last four games with a sore shoulder.. Halladay has now lost back-to-back complete games and has lost 6 since 2009.. Prado and McLouth’s back-to-back HR’s were the first for the Braves this year.. Prado went 4-for-12 with 3RBI’s in the series..