The red hot, first place Atlanta Braves (64-45) roll in Citizens Bank Park tonight riding a seven game winning streak. They’ll take on a struggling Phillies team who just lost two of three at home to the NL West cellar dweller SF Giants, and have lost 10 of their last 11 games. The Phils are now 50-58 and just one game ahead of the NY Mets for 4th place in the NL East. When the season began and even as late as the All Star break, the head to head games against the Braves were supposed to be important in deciding the fate of the division. With Atlanta holding an 11.5 game lead on Washington and a 13.5 game lead on the Phillies that no longer seems to be the case. Barring a massive Braves collapse coupled with a fantastic run from the teams chasing them this division is over for all intents and purposes.
Tonight’s game features the major league debut of Ethan Martin, the Phillies right-handed fireballer obtained in last years trade for Shane Victorino to the Dodgers against Braves RHP Kris Medlin 7-10, 3.74. Medlin is 0-2 against the Phils this year losing back on April 4th and again on July 7th. In his last outing against the Phils Medlin lasted only 5.1 innings hiving up 8 hits and 7 runs, 6 of them earned. In his last three starts Medlin is 1-2 while going a combined 15.1 IP and giving up 24 hits and 10ER. Martin is a former first round pick with a mid 90’s fastball and tough slider, but has had command issues in his 5 minor league seasons. The 24 year old righty has averaged a strikeout per inning in his five minor league seasons, but has never been below 4.5BB/9 in any one year. Tonight he steps into the spot light starting in place of the injured Cliff Lee, who is still recovering from a strained neck that caused him to miss his last start against the Tigers last Saturday.
Tomorrow night the Phils send Jonathan Pettibone 5-4, 4.04 up against Braves RHP Brandon Beachy 0-0, 17.18 who’s making a spot start in place of the injured Tim Hudson. Pettibone has done a respectable job since joining the Phils rotation back in April. He’s reported to have a tired arm, which is not uncommon for a rookie starter not used to pitching in the major leagues. In his last three starts Pettiboe is 0-1 with 2 ND’s, both losses for the struggling Phils. He’s only given the Phils 16 innings his last three starts and has given up 3 ER in each. Beachy started the season for Rome Braves in the South Atlantic League and since progressed to AA, AAA and is now with the parent club.In Beachy’s lone start he lasted only 3.2 innings and surrendered 8 hits and 7 ER against the Rockies on July 29th. Despite the rocky debut the Braves came back and won the game 9-8.
On Sunday the Phils play a prime-time game against the Braves with Lefty John Lannan getting the start for the Phils. Lannan is 3-4, 4.10 for the Phils as the 5th starter this year. Lannan has only made 11 starts for the Phils this year after spending nearly two months on the disabled list. In his last three starts Lannan is 1-1 with 1 ND. His ERA over the three games is a very respectable 3.79. Lannan has yet to face the Braves this year but is 9-5 lifetime against them with a 3.20 ERA. The Braves send yet another rookie to the hill Sunday night when they hand the ball to 22 year old lefty Alex Wood 1-2, 3.51. Wood has been used in the bullpen all year before making his first start against the Rockies on July 30th, an 11-3 victory for the Braves. In his lone start Wood went 7 innings, allowing 6 hits and 3 ER while striking out 7.
While the Braves are rolling the Phis are reeling. They look like a team that knows their fate is sealed and appear to be going through the motions. There’s still two months of baseball left to play. Taking a look future Phils Cody Asche and now Ethan Martin is the smart thing to do for a team that needs to begin preparing for 2014. Other prospects may get a look these final two months as well. The fans want something to be excited about and the organization doesn’t want to see a half-empty Citizens Bank Park. With a new cable TV on the horizon and season tickets to sell this winter the Phils must find a way to keep the fan base turned on and tuned in.