Totally biased Philadelphia Phillies vs. Atlanta Braves series preview
By Mike Lacy
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Now that the (four-day!!!) All-Star break has refreshed us, Phillies fans can enter the second half with renewed hope. Sure, the first half didn’t go entirely as well as it could have, but that’s all in the past. Today is a new day!
On that note, I’m going to go into this preview with a sense of optimism. I’m not going to worry about how many losses the Phillies have or who is or isn’t going to be traded. That kind of negativity won’t do anyone any good.
I’m only going to concern myself with how incredible the second half of the season will be for the Phillies, and how it all starts with this series in Atlanta.
And so, I present to you my totally biased preview of the Phillies’ weekend series against the Atlanta Braves.
The last time they met
The last time these teams met, it didn’t go so well for the Phillies. So I think I’ll just move on.
The last time they met…in Atlanta
There were plenty of fireworks the last time the Phillies played at Turner Field. Image Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
That’s more like it! When these teams faced off in Turner Field last month, the Phillies had their way with the Braves. It was a wonderful three-game sweep that gave Phillies fans hope that the 2014 season might not be a complete waste.
What’s new with the Braves
They’re tied for first place with the Nationals, and it appears that the battle for the National League East won’t be decided until the very end of the season.
It doesn’t seem like the Braves are all that good, so I think the fact that they’re in first place speaks volumes about the quality of the division.
Braves player who is horrible
The Phillies and Braves play several times throughout the season, so I end up writing a lot of Braves previews. But no matter how many times I write about the Braves, I never get tired of pointing out how awful B.J. Upton is.
He wasn’t always awful. Back when he played for the Rays, he once was considered to be a rising star. Although he never quite reached a level that could be considered “stardom”, he was still a reasonably productive player throughout his time in Tampa.
Once he arrived in Atlanta, that productivity vanished. Maybe it was the pressure of receiving a big contract; maybe it was the pressure of trying to match his brother Justin who has been noticeably less sucky than B.J. Regardless of the reason, Upton is now one of the worst – and overpaid – players in baseball.
The good news for Upton is that he hasn’t been quite as bad as he was last season. His batting average is up to .215 and he’s on pace for double digits in home runs. So he’s got that going for him.
Braves player who isn’t entirely horribleJason Heyward
catches everything! Image Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
According to Fangraphs, Jason Heyward is really good at defense. His defensive fWAR gives me the impression that he covers all three outfield positions simultaneously and saves about twenty runs a game.
Unfortunately, I haven’t watched enough Braves games to verify the accuracy of this assumption. Can any Braves fans help me out here?
Reasons why the Phillies will win
I’m sure that the Phillies are going to have their way with the Braves during this series, so it was difficult to narrow down this list. But here are the three reasons that stood out the most in my mind:Ryan Howard
+ Turner Field = DINGERS! Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
1. The Braves can make all sorts of explanations as to why they needed a new stadium less than 20 years after moving into Turner Field. But Phillies fans know the real reason: They’re tired of Ryan Howard killing them there.
When Howard plays in Turner, he instantly turns back the clock to 2006. They might as well rename the place “Howard Field” to properly commemorate his dominance.
I figure Howard is good for at least two home runs this weekend. They’ll probably be three-run shots too!
2. You might have noticed that the Phillies offense is not quite the same juggernaut that it was back in 2008. So you might be surprised that the Braves have actually scored fewer runs than the Phillies this season.
That kind of offense isn’t going to get the job done against pitchers like Cole Hamels and A.J. Burnett.
3. Cliff Lee is coming back! While he won’t actually appear in this series (except perhaps as a pinch hitter or runner, and wouldn’t that be magical?), I’m sure his mere presence will lift the Phillies back to greatness. The other pitchers will likely all pitch gems, knowing that Lee will almost assuredly do the same in his start on Monday.
Reason why the Braves may win
I suppose it’s possible that the Braves get lucky and come away with a win in one of these games. It took me a while to think of how this could happen, but I finally came up with a couple of ways in which the Braves could pull out a victory:
1. The Braves have yet to announce starting pitchers for Saturday or Sunday. They probably (wisely) figured that the only way to gain an advantage over the Phillies was via the element of surprise. If Chase Utley doesn’t know which pitcher he’ll be facing, he can’t prepare as diligently as he usually does.
Pretty clever, Braves. We’ll see if your little act of gamesmanship pays off.
2. It appears that Dan Uggla is on his way out of Atlanta. The suspension was supposedly an “internal matter,” which seems like a nice way of saying, “We’re suspending him because he sucks and he’s been whining.”
Considering how much of a pain Uggla has been for the Phillies over the past few years, there’s almost no chance that he doesn’t find a way to hit one final home run this weekend.
The Braves don’t stand a chance. Much like the last time these two teams squared off at Turner Field, I fully expect the Phillies to walk away with a sweep.