The Phils (52-65) travel to Atlanta tonight to start a three game series against the streaking Atlanta Braves (72-46). The 4th place Phils are now 19.5 games behind the Braves and have waved the white flag, as they DFA’d both Laynce Nix and Delmon Young while giving more AB’s to younger players they hope will be part of the 2014 team. On Sunday, July 21st the Phils were only 6.5 games behind the Braves and were considering buying at the non-waiver trade deadline. Since that date the Phils have gone 4-16, scoring only 60 runs while the Braves have won 17 of 20 and now own the best record in baseball.
On Monday night the Phils will send Cole Hamels 4-13, 3.81 ERA to the mound to face Rookie of the Year candidate Julio Teheran 9-5, 2.96 ERA. Hamels leads the NL in losses but has pitched much better than his record. After two tough outings to start the season Hamels has a 3.28 ERA, but is still just 4-11 in his last 22 starts. He’s been the victim of poor run support all season. In his last three outings Hamels is 0-1 with 2 ND’s, despite pitching 7 or more innings each game while allowing 2, 0 and 2 earned runs respectively in each of the last three starts. Lifetime against the Braves Hamels is 12-8 with a 3.73 ERA. This will be the first game since opening day that Hamels has faced the Braves. The Phils lost that game 7-5, with Hamels taking the loss after going only 5 innings while surrendering 5 earned runs.
His opponent, Julio Teheran 9-5, 2.95 ERA has lived up to the hype after pitching his way into the 25 man roster this spring. The 22 year-old right-hander was signed at age 16 by Atlanta in 2007 as an amateur free agent from Columbia. He’s been consistently ranked a top prospect by Baseball America the past four seasons. In Teheran’s first three starts he struggled and posted a 7.31 ERA with no decisions. In the 19 outings since he’s been nothing short of excellent, averaging over 6.1 innings per start with a 2.38 ERA. This will be Teheran’s first start against the Phils this season. In his major league debut Teheran started and lost against the Phils on May 7th, 2011. In September of 2011 Teheran pitched three innings of relief against the Phils and wasn’t involved in the decision.
In his last three starts Teheran has been at his best. In those games he’s 2-0 with an ERA of 1.00, with 21 K’s in 18 innings of work. Teheran sports a fastball in the 92-94 mph range occasionally touching 95 and 96 while his nearly 12-6 curveball has been giving plenty of opposing batters jelly legs. His changeup needs a little work as he has a tendency to slow his arm a bit. Hitters will start to pick up on this, but as for now all we can say is this kid appears to be the real deal and looks to have a very bright future.
In the second game of the series the Phils will start recent call-up Ethan Martin 1-1, 7.65 ERA to face the Braves Kris Medlen 9-10, 3.85 ERA. Martin, the hard throwing right-hander acquired in the trade for Shane Victorino at least year’s trade deadline undoubtedly has a major league fastball that he consistently throws in the mid-90’s, touching as high as 98 on the gun. In five minor league seasons he has never been below 4.5 BB’s per 9 innings and he’s experienced the same problem in his two starts with the Phillies, as he’s allowed six free passes in just 9.1 innings of work. He’s also struck out 10 batters, showing why he was a first round pick in 2008 and the first high school pitcher taken that year.
Medlen has earned a starting role in the Braves rotation this year after going 10-1 with a 1.57 ERA in 12 starts and 38 relief appearances last year. The 27 year-old righty has been exclusively used to start this year and is the oldest of a trio of young starters the Braves will roll out every 5th day for the foreseeable future. The third pitcher in that group is 25 year-old Mike Minor. Medlen is 1-2 in three starts against the Phils this year and is 2-2 with a 5.85 ERA lifetime against them. In his last three starts, including his lone victory against Philadelphia this season Medlen is 3-0 with a 4.26 ERA. In 19 innings of work Medlen has struck our 18 while only walking 3 batters.
In the series finale Wednesday night the Phils will start John Lannan 3-5, 4.81 ERA against Brandon Beachy 1-0, 5.00 ERA. Lannan has pitched as you’d expect a 5th starter to perform – erratically. There’s been nights where the big lefty has looked tough (i.e. in back to back 8-inning performances against the White Sox and Nats, where he allowed only 8 hits and 1 ER in 16 innings of work), but more often than not Lannan has failed to pitch into the 6th inning. In his last three starts Lannan is 1-1 with a ND. His ERA has soared 0.68 in those three games. Lannan has faced the Braves three times this year sporting a 1-1 record. His last start against Atlanta on August 9th was a disaster as Lannan allowed 9 hits, 5 BB’s and 8 ER in just five innings of work. His previous two starts against the Braves he pitched 13 innings while allowing only 2 earned runs.
Brandon Beachy, the 26 year-old righty has just three starts to his credit this year, including a no decision against the Phils in a 5-4 Braves victory back on August 3rd. Beachy’s season numbers are skewed by his July 29th loss to the Rockies where he gave up 8 hits and 7 ER in just 3.2 innings. In his last two starts Beachy has settled down. In those two games he’s pitched 14.1 innings only allowing 8 hits and 3 earned runs, good for a 1.88 ERA. He’s another young arm the Braves seem to have an endless supply of, as their organization is one of baseball’s best in developing both starting and relief pitchers over the past 20+ years. Much of the credit had been given to former Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone, who left the club after the 2005 season. Since then they’ve developed many fine young arms, including the best reliever in all of baseball, Craig Kimbrel. Their development of young pitchers is a credit to the entire Braves organization who first finds these young arms, and then develop them through their minor league system where there are far more success stories than failures.
In a tale of two seasons, with The Phils and Braves heading in opposite directions, this doesn’t look to be much of a series on paper. The Braves are red-hot and cruising towards the NL East flag while the Phils continue to stumble and are firmly entrenched in 4th place in the division. With 45 games left to play the Phils are holding auditions, looking at some young players they hope can help the team next year. Aside from that and pride, there’s not much else to play for.