If you were at home or at the ballpark watching the Phillies vs. the Atlanta Braves on Monday night, you may have experienced a familiar spell of chills or tingles throughout the contest. Is it the noticeable drop in temperature as the fall season sets in? Is it a bad flu shot? Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the sight of 45,000 white towels waving around Citizens Bank Park as the crowd let’s out a deafening roar after their beloved Phils’ turn a double play, score a go-ahead run, or record the last out of another crucial game. That’s right, Philadelphia, it’s playoff baseball season again. And your Phillies are peaking at the exact point in the year that you would want them too, again.
What more can we say about Cole Hamels (12-10)? The guy as been unbelievable during the last two months. He has been more consistent than any pitcher on the staff, including Roy Halladay, over that span. Cole threw eight innings of six hit baseball, giving up one earned run while striking out six. He’s lowered his season ERA to 2.93. Not only has his physical skills come back from last season, but his mental approach is back to where he was during the 2008 campaign. Closer Brad Lidge came in for the ninth inning, converting his 24th save of the year. Lidge has also turned his season around, converting 14 of his last 15 save opportunities, including all six in September. His slider was reminiscent of the ‘Lights Out’ Lidge moments of 2008, as well.
Braves’ starter Jair Jurrjens was a late scratch from the game due to a sore right knee, which forced manager Bobby Cox to call upon rookie Brandon Beachy (0-1) to make his MLB debut. As many Phils’ fans know, however, facing a rookie who they haven’t seen before hasn’t exactly been a good thing for the team (think Florida’s Aldaberto Mendez).
For the most part, Beachy didn’t disappoint, and ended up throwing 4.1 innings while allowing only one earned run. The Phils’ were, however, able to capitalize off of some lead off base hits and errors by Braves fielders. To lead off the bottom of the second inning, Ryan Howard smashed a double to deep right field. After Jayson Werth flew out to right, Raul Ibanez grounded out to first base to move Howard over to third. Next came Carlos Ruiz, arguably the most consistent contributor on the team, who doubled to left to score Howard and tie the game at 1-1. Beachy settled down to throw scoreless third and fourth frames, however, ran into more trouble in the bottom of the fifth. To lead off the inning, Shane Victorino hit a fly fall to Braves’ rookie right fielder Jason Heyward. Heyward botched the play, which allowed Shane to hustle all the way to third base. Placido Polanco was able to knock him home with a grounder to short stop Alex Gonzalez, to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead. The Phillies were able to load the bases later in the inning, and Ibanez knocked Chase Utley home on another grounder to Gonzalez to make it a 3-1 Phillies lead.
The Phillies lead in the National League East division moves to 4 games after the win on Monday night. The Phils’ will send ace Roy Halladay (19-10) to the mound Tuesday night to face Atlanta’s Mike Minor (3-1). Minor, another Braves rookie starter, hasn’t looked good despite his winning record. He will enter Tuesday’s game with a 5.84 ERA.