Here are three things we gleaned from the Braves’ 7-3 loss to the Phillies on Sunday.
1. The Braves started slow and tapered off in this series-defining defeat
There’s an old adage in baseball that teams are predisposed to win 50 games and lose 50 games in a given season, regardless of how well or poorly they play. But after that, each franchise is on their own for the remaining 62 games.
Article continues below ...
Using that rationale, it was part of Atlanta’s destiny to fall in Philly, just like it might have been Brian McCann’s destiny to commit his first error of the season — immediately after a wild pitch from Braves reliever Alex Wood — which, cobbled together, yielded two Phillies runs on the same play. Ouch!
Throw in an anemic afternoon from Freddie Freeman and the Upton brothers (one hit, seven combined strikeouts), plus Kris Medlen’s worst outing of the year (six earned runs, eight hits allowed in just 5.1 innings), and you have the recipe for a forgettable loss that dropped Atlanta’s July mark to 2-4.
That said, the Braves (50-38, four games up in the National League East) had one golden shot at forging a major comeback:
Down 7-1 in the seventh inning, Chris Johnson belted a solo homer. Then, came three straight singles from Tyler Pastornicky, Andrelton Simmons and Jason Heyward (scoring Pastornicky), setting up a scenario where the Braves trailed only by four … with one out, two on and their 3-4-5 hitters waiting to take the plate.
But a Justin Upton strikeout and Freeman strikeout (final pitch: breaking ball in the dirt) thwarted Atlanta’s last and best chance to mount a serious Sunday charge.
If McCann (one run, three hits) had logged an at-bat in the 7th, maybe the game produces a different result. After all, the Braves backstop boasts an eight-game hitting streak and sterling 15-day track record of three homers, 11 RBI, 10 runs and a .454 batting average — with eight multiple-hit outings.
For the Phillies, they maximized their opportunities from the get-go. With two outs in the opening stanza, Medlen surrendered a single to Chase Utley, a triple to All-Star Domonic Brown, a bad walk to Michael Young (four straight pitches) and a run-scoring single to Delmon Young, who’s hitting at a .446 clip with one homer, 11 RBI and eight runs in the last 15 days.
It set the tone for the Phillies’ fun offensive day, which included two triples and one homer.
2. Apparently, Medlen wasn’t kidding about claiming the Braves’ batting title — among pitchers
Last week, after registering the first multiple-hit game of his career, Medlen jokingly announced a new goal of becoming Atlanta’s go-to hitting pitcher, especially since Tim Hudson “had come back to earth a bit” from a hot start in April and May.
On Sunday, Medlen’s RBI single (scoring McCann) yielded the Braves’ first run of the game.
Of his last 18 at-bats, spanning nine games, Medlen is hitting .333. In that span, his overall batting average has rocketed from .067 to .207.
3. The Braves may want to bypass Ben Revere for the Aug. 3 and 4 games next month
Heading into Sunday, Revere ranked second in the majors for batting average in afternoon games (.388) — amongst players with 60 or more at-bats during the day. (Toronto’s Adam Lind has a .400 average in daylight.)
For the series finale, Revere’s two-run triple in the fourth inning — scoring Delmon Young and Darin Ruf — essentially iced the game for the Phillies (43-46).
In four MLB seasons, Revere (.431 on-base percentage during the day) has yet to crack a single home run or reach the 75-run mark. But he’s still a dangerous asset on the base paths, averaging 37 steals for 2011/12 and being on pace for roughly 39 thefts with Philly (his first year in the National League).
And he’s still someone to fear at the plate during daytime hours — minus the rare situations when only a three-run homer or grand slam would suffice.
For what it’s worth, Revere’s night-time batting average (.268) and OBP numbers (.303) have been somewhat deflating.
3a. Philly fans can be genuine, appreciative souls from time to time
Forget Revere’s two-run triple, Brown’s solo homer (fifth inning) or the Braves’ wild pitch/throwing error combo that led to two Philly runs.
Sunday’s loudest ovation may have been reserved for Mother Nature.
In the third inning, with the vast majority of Citizens Bank Park patrons baking in the 90-plus-degree temperatures, the fans erupted for a full minute when a random cloud blocked the sun, cooling things down throughout the stadium.
Even the Philly radio announcers reveled in the momentary gift from the weather gods, saluting the fluffy cloud, as if it were about to douse the ballpark with a much-needed rain shower.
It was one of those signature moments where most baseball fans are happy to play outdoors. And for Philly fans, it revealed the human side to a highly emotional, sports-crazed populace that’s still taking heat for booing Santa Claus … almost 40 years ago.