Braves face tough task vs. Phillies with rookie starters, shaky defense
PHILADELPHIA -- Five Cuts from Monday's action:
Beachy, who hadn't pitched in a game since a Sept. 3 outing in Triple A, actually threw reasonably well but only lasted 82 pitches and 4 1/3 innings, giving up four hits, three walks and just one earned run, as the Phillies went on to win 3-1 and extend their division lead to four games, while the Braves' wild-card lead slipped to two games over the Padres.
While their pedigrees couldn't be more different -- Beachy was signed as an undrafted free agent after pitching at Indiana Wesleyan while Minor was drafted out of Vanderbilt in the first round of the 2009 draft -- neither Atlanta rookie is an ideal candidate to start against the Phillies in stretch-run games. Beachy, who had a 1.73 ERA and 148 strikeouts in 119 1/3 innings in Double A and Triple A this season, got the call in place of injured
"If they're good enough to be up here, they're good enough to get in the ballgame," Braves manager
That's more commonly true of rookie relievers like
Home field would be nice for the Braves, however, as they are 52-23 at Turner Field and 34-42 away from it. Making up four games from the Phillies will be tough, but the two clubs do meet five more times.
The three of them are a big reason the Phillies have won eight in a row and are 42-15 since July 22. Since that date, Hamels and Oswalt both have an ERA of 1.94 and Halladay has a 2.68 mark.
Hamels has particularly distinguished himself with a .193 average against and 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings. He continues to master the curveball and has increased confidence in his cutter, thereby varying his repertoire and helping him prevent innings from getting out of hand like they sometimes did in 2009.
On Monday, for instance, after allowing three hits and a run to start the second inning, Hamels bore down against
"It's nice to be able to throw four pitches for strikes," Hamels said. "In the past I only had two. That's something I've never had. It makes it more fun to play that chess match [with the hitter]."
According to Pitch f/x data, Hamels still relied primarily on his fastball (73 pitches) and his change (25) but threw nine curves (six for strikes) and 10 cutters (seven strikes). That's more than enough balance to keep hitters guessing.
They were uncharacteristic lapses by Atlanta, which ranks fourth in the NL -- one spot behind the Phillies -- in park-adjusted defensive efficiency, a
While it was McCann's 12th error of the season, second-most among all catchers, Heyward's gaffe was particularly striking. According to Fielding Bible data available on billjamesonline.com, Heyward entered the game leading all major league righ tfielders with a plus-minus of +22, meaning he had made 22 more plays than the average right fielder would have made. His splits show that his play on deep balls had been exceptional with a +23 rating -- roughly double the rating of any other qualifying right fielder.
In Heyward's defense, it was a tough play -- a knuckling liner into a stiff breeze -- just one he usually excels at makng.
"He inside-outed it, and it got in the wind," Heyward said. "I was right there the whole way. I wanted to hurry and get under it as fast as possible, and the last few rotations took it out of my reach. There was nothing I could do about that."
But that Yankees' luster and swagger celebrated in the pregame ceremony wasn't built by pitching guys like
Gaudin is a serviceable long man, but he lacks the strikeout arsenal that would make him effective in jams. Opponents are batting .296 with a .376 on-base percentage against him when there are runners on base. That's not the profile of a pitcher Girardi should have brought into that situation, even if it was only the sixth inning.
The Yankees still went on to win 8-6, in large part due to
The next meeting between these teams comes this weekend when the Rockies host the Giants for three games, and San Francisco will enter with the decided pitching advantage. Colorado's only starter with truly plus stuff is
The Giants, though, will have a tough road to get to the weekend still in first place. They face a Cubs team that has won six straight and eight of their last nine in consecutive road series against the Brewers, Cardinals and, most recently, the Marlins. San Francisco will run into two scorching-hot Chicago starters, too, in