Jorge Sosa threw 6 2-3 shutout innings and improved to 13-3 on the season, leading the Braves to a 4-1 win over the Phillies Tuesday night. The Phils fell two games out of the NL Wild Card, as the Braves moved one step closer to their 14th consecutive division title.
The momentum that was building from the previous series has officially grinded to a halt after the Phils' second loss in a row.
Now comes the difficult task of trying to revive a pulse midway through a road trip. One more loss, coupled with an Astros win, and they’ll be on life support. The Braves now have a six-game edge with 11 games remaining, so forget about the division.
The Phils were dead on arrival, as those of us watching could tell from the very first pitch. They appeared to be iced from the day off, a rare case when a day of rest did more harm than good – as seen in J-Roll’s first three impatient at bats that looked nothing like what he demonstrated last week. He would eventually draw a patient walk in his fourth at bat and single in the ninth to extend his hitting streak to 25 games, the lone positive to come out of this game that included hitless nights from Chase Utley, Bobby Abreu, Pat Burrell, Ryan Howard and Mike Lieberthal.
The Phils stranded 10 runners and went 1-7 with five strikeouts with runners in scoring position, but it wasn’t entirely their fault.
I rarely blame umpires for dictating the outcome of games, but home plate umpire Joe Brinkman swung the momentum several times with called third strikes on balls that were clearly wide. Most of those chances came with men in scoring position, including a bad miss on a check swing by Jason Michaels in the seventh.
Sosa walked six batters on the night, and basically got by because Brinkman allowed him to get by. In that regard, this was typical Braves baseball: getting all the calls; doing nothing to impress you; dangling the game like a carrot in front of an ass.
Speaking of which, the game was still there for the taking when Manuel replaced Cory Lidle midway through the sixth with the score 1-0 and two outs on the board. Lidle had thrown only 59 pitches and was pitching great.
Manuel went with the left-left matchup of Rheal Cormier versus Adam LaRoche, even though LaRoche was 2-14 lifetime against Lidle. Bobby Cox countered with Julio Franco, which is what he always does. Cormier pitched around Franco to load the bases for pinch-hitter Chipper Jones. Cormier walked Jones to bring a run to the plate.
This is way too much bullpen for my tastes, shades of the micro-managing Jack McKeon last series, but it’s also poor management, period. I will never understand Manuel’s infatuation with Cormier, who should never be allowed to pitch in a 1-0 game during a pennant race. Plus, Manuel didn’t consider the obvious counter-measures on the Braves bench.
After the game, Lidle was rightfully unnerved.
"I'll let them explain what happened," Lidle told Todd Zolecki of the Inquirer. "Because I can't."
I would have liked to see Charlie Manuel sacrifice himself to argue balls and strikes as soon as Brinkman started gifting Sosa the outside corner.
David Bell had a hit in this game, but I’m sick of seeing him fist inside pitches for pop ups or pop fouls. Notice how often pitchers throw darts at him inside. He'll always chase. Always.
Braves shortstop Rafael Furcal led the Braves with three hits, scored twice, drove in a run and picked up his career-high 43rd stolen base.
Jimmy Rollins is one hit away from tying Chuck Klein’s hitting streak of 26 games set in 1930.
John Smoltz has been scratched from tonight’s game. He will be replaced by Horacio Ramirez (11-9, 4.65 ERA). He’ll face Brett Myers (12-8, 3.71 ERA), who’s looking to avenge last week’s loss at the hands of the Braves.