The Braves head to Philadelphia for the final time this season for a three-game series that begins Monday. Who takes the series? Who are the key players to watch for?
When the Phillies and Braves meet at Citizen's Bank Park on Monday night, it will be a battle of two playoff teams. There isn't too much doubt surrounding that fact. Where these games will have an impact, though, is in terms of the NL East and Wild Card races.
Atlanta currently trails Philadelphia by 7.5 games in the division. While it appears the division is pretty much locked up, a series sweep could move the Braves into striking distance with three weeks remaining. Anything less than a sweep would pretty much clinch the division for the Phillies, regardless of what the "magic numbers" indicate.
That being said, as nice as it would be to catch our rivals in the standings, it's all about staying healthy for the playoffs and maintaining the lead in the Wild Card race. No one wants a repeat of last September -- which was the month nearly one-fourth of the team went down to injury -- and no one wants a playoff series to be greatly affected by a somewhat-meaningless series in September.
If the two clubs were a game or two apart, yes, the stakes would be at an all-time high. But for as long as the Braves trail by nine games in the loss column, don't do anything stupid. Do whatever is possible to win each game this series, but if it runs any increased risk of injury, avoid it.
Let's take a closer look at the Phillies:
A Hated Star:
|2011 - Shane Victorino||107||425||84||129||22||15||15||54||46||51||17||3||.304||.379||.532|
No one likes Shane Victorino besides Phillies fan. It's a proven fact.* He tends to wear his emotions on his sleeves, plays dirty on occasion, and takes a dumb picture for SB Nation. And if those three characteristics don't rub you the wrong way, the whole he's-a-really-good-baseball-player thing is pretty annoying as well.
*not really ... well, maybe. OK -- probably.
Seriously, Victorino is one of the better overall players in all of baseball.
Despite missing nearly a month of games, the center fielder has an incredible fWAR of 6.3. His range in the outfield ranks among the best in the game, and his base stealing is as efficient as anyone's. His numbers are stellar for any position, let alone center field, and he actually hits better on the road instead of at the hitter-friendly Citizen's Bank Park.
Victorino is a star. Do not let him beat you in the series.
Monday, 7:05 EDT -- Derek Lowe vs. Cliff Lee -- MLB Network, Fox Sports South, PeachTree TV
|2011 - Derek Lowe||9-12||29||29||0||0||0||0||163.1||174||85||82||11||61||120||4.52||1.44|
|2011 - Cliff Lee||15-7||30||27||5||5||0||0||194.2||165||58||56||15||40||198||2.59||1.05|
Tuesday, 7:05 EDT -- Tim Hudson vs. Vance Worley -- MLB Network, Fox Sports South, PeachTree TV
|2011 - Tim Hudson||14-8||28||28||1||1||0||0||183.0||156||71||62||13||47||131||3.05||1.11|
|2011 - Vance Worley||10-1||19||17||1||0||0||0||104.1||86||36||33||7||33||90||2.85||1.14|
Wednesday, 7:05 EDT -- Brandon Beachy vs. Roy Oswalt -- ESPN, Fox Sports South
|2011 - Brandon Beachy||7-2||21||21||0||0||0||0||120.1||104||49||45||15||35||135||3.37||1.16|
|2011 - Roy Oswalt||7-8||19||18||0||0||0||0||104.1||123||47||44||8||24||69||3.80||1.41|
What We Acquired Him For:
Matt Diaz was brought to Atlanta last week to help the team hit left-handed pitching. Most notably, the Phillies left-handed pitching. He will be playing Monday night against Cliff Lee. While no one is expecting him to hit two home runs, if he is going to take playing time away from Jason Heyward, Diaz needs to produce.
There's somewhere between a 50-75% chance of rain showers and thunderstorms from Monday afternoon until Wednesday night. The Braves did originally have an off-day scheduled for Thursday in case of a rainout, but the team now has that day occupied with a double-header in New York. With this being a battle of two playoff teams and the final (regular season) series of the year in Philadelphia, do not be surprised for some late starts and multiple rain delays.
Cliff Lee will be a tough man to beat on Monday. I don't see a victory there. Tim Hudson out-pitches Vance Worley on Tuesday night to tie the series up. Brandon Beachy scares me whenever he's pitching in a home run friendly park, which he will be on Wednesday, and Roy Oswalt has been up-and-down all season long. I'll say Philly takes the final game by a run or two and takes the series, essentially clinching the NL East.