• Exclusives

    Braves beat Fish, welcome surging Phils

    Mike Minor got little support in Miami. He'll try again for a win Saturday.

    While the National League East is hot bed of trade deadline activity, the playoff picture is becoming clearer. The Miami Marlins have fallen out of contention and have begun what appears to be a fire sale. The New York Mets are the victims of a free fall thanks to a number of key injuries to pitching and poor performance in the bullpen. The first place Nationals don’t seem to be buyers or sellers at the deadline, despite the nagging question mark of what happens when GM Phil Rizzo shuts down Stephen Strasburg. Atlanta has moved past the failed Dempster deal and look to Greinke for rotation depth. And the Braves look to add to the disappointment of the reigning NL East division winners, the Philadephia Phillies, with a 3-game set at Turner Field this weekend.

    In a continuation of a season-long story line, the Braves lost again on a Monday and again behind Mike Minor. Minor pitched 7 solid innings without any run support. While his ERA continues to drop, the rookie can’t seem to get any wins and like the rest of the rotation can’t beat the bad case of Mondays that has plagued the team the entire season. The offense couldn’t make anything happen off a dominant Josh Johnson who pitched nearly 6 innings of perfect baseball before being forced out of the game with a blister on his pitching hand.

    The best pitching performances of the series came from veteran Tim Hudson in Tuesday’s start and reliever Kris Medlen in relief of Wednesday’s starter, Tommy Hanson.

    Tim Hudson rebounded after a shaky 2 innings that allowed 3 runs to the Marlins. He then shut down the Marlins’ offense entirely, sitting down the final 16 batters he faced. Hudson pitched 7 innings before turning over the game to O’Flaherty and Kimbrel who didn’t allow another run to Miami. Braves hitting seemed to flip the Tuesday switch, cranking out 7 hits and scoring 4 runs after a dismal Monday night. This, too, has become a season-long story line for the Braves who apparently enjoy playing on Tuesdays after losing on Mondays. Prado, Freeman and Heyward continue to put runs on the board, keeping the team in the battle. Kimbrel notched his 29th save of the season in Tuesday night’s win at Marlins Park.

    As far as pitching performances go, Tommy Hanson had one of the strangest of the season and certainly the least effective of the 3-game set with Miami. Unlike Minor’s Monday start, Hanson was the benefactor of a great night of hitting by the Braves. Both Juan Francisco, playing third base on Chipper’s scheduled off day, and Michael Bourn jacked 2-run bombs. Without this breakout offense, Hanson’s night could have been a huge disaster. Instead, Tommy’s night was one of those bizarre nights in baseball when a pitcher seems to luck out. Tommy somehow allowed only 1 run on 3 hits, yet gave up 7 walks and 7 stolen bases to match his 7 strikeouts.

    Tommy’s bizarre night could not have been a bigger contrast to that of reliever Kris Medlen who came into the game after Hanson’s 5 innings. Medlen proceeded to pitch 3 perfect innings of relief. With Medlen’s phenomenal outing, the Braves were able to keep the game out of the Marlins’ hands and take the series.

    The line scores from each of the 3 games in Miami:

    Game 1:

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Runs Hits Errors
    Braves 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 4 0
    Marlins 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 X 2 8 0

    W: Johnson (6-7) L: Minor (5-7) SV: Cishek

    Game 2:

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Runs Hits Errors
    Braves 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 4 7 0
    Marlins 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 6 1

    W: Hudson L: LeBlanc SV: Kimbrel (29)

    Game 3:

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Runs Hits Errors
    Braves 0 0 0 3 2 1 0 1 0 7 9 0
    Marlins 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 1

    W: Hanson (11-5) L: Nolasco (8-9)


    Friday: Hamels (11-4, 3.23) vs. Sheets (2-0, 0.00)

    Saturday: Blanton (8-8, 4.70) vs. Minor (5-7, 5.49)

    Sunday: Halladay (4-5, 4.32) vs. Hudson (9-4, 3.71)

    While Phillies’ GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. says that this weekend’s Phillies/Braves series will be one to watch in terms of ramifications prior to the trade deadline on the 31st, the Braves merely hope to shutdown the Phillies and end what appears to be a developing hot streak. The Braves would love to crush the comeback hopes of their basement-dwelling rivals.

    Friday night’s match-up of Hamels and Sheets looks to be the most interesting of the series. Hamels signed a 6-year $144 million extension with the Phillies yesterday. On the flip side, Ben Sheets is being paid mere pennies in comparison and has come out strong for the Braves. Sheets has recorded 12 scoreless innings, allowing 7 hits, and striking out 11 in his first 2 games since joining the Braves. It will be a true test of Sheets’ ability going up against Hamels.

    The Braves enter the series with a 54-44 record while the Phillies are 45-54 on the season.

    Philadelphia rolls into Turner Field for a 3-game set beginning tonight at 7:35 (EST).

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch" href="https://twitter.com/#!/framethepitch">@framethepitch.