Going into the last weekend, coming off of a fairly impressive sweep of the Marlins, the Braves were in control of their own destiny. With their magic number at two, they only needed a combination of a win and a Padres loss or just a couple of wins to ensure their playoff berth. Playing a Phillies team with nothing on the line and not having to face the Roys Halladay and Oswalt, it seemed a simple task. Today, though, they utterly collapsed under the pressure.
Tommy Hanson was largely effective through his five innings of work. He struck out six while allowing five hits and two walks. He played with trouble against the Phillies, but his ability to get strike-outs in key spots helped him to dance out of trouble. Johnny Venters continued to dance that fine line in the 6th, but the defense let him. Brooks Conrad’s errant throw turned a manageable situation into a first and third, no out situation. With the infield playing in, Omar Infante had no chance to field the Utley’s ground ball to the right side. The Phillies went on to score four runs in the inning without hitting the ball particularly hard. Conrad would be let off the hook a bit with a complete collapse of the Braves bullpen afterward, as the Phillies continued to add to their lead through the 8th and 9th innings.
The Braves offense couldn’t get anything going all day. Facing Vance Whorley and the bottom part of the Phillies bullpen, they only mustered three hits. The Braves line-up that, earlier in year, had an enormous command of the strike zone is gone-seven strikeouts against two walks. The whole team appeared tight, tense, and nervous, completely uncharacteristic of a Bobby Cox team. Losing two of their leaders, Chipper Jones and Martin Prado can’t help, but it’s upsetting to see a an effort so atypical of past Braves teams on a day that the Braves were giving Bobby Cox his big send off. What seemed like destiny-putting Bobby Cox in the playoffs in his last year-now seems a desperate cause. Winning tomorrow cures a lot of ails, but the team that played today did not look like a playoff team.
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