So as it turns out, Cliff Lee is human. I read several blogs after last night's game that jokingly suggested the recently acquired veteran was suffering from "a severe case of whiplash" after his first loss with Philly. Funny, yet unfortunately, from the perspective of a Braves fan, not true. It is satisfying, however, to think there is a dent in Lee's armor now, and that perhaps the Phillies lost a bit of swagger and will not feel so confident the next time Lee takes the mound.
Not sure one game will have that much affect on Lee or the Phillies, but you never know.
As for the Braves, a loss last night would have further dampened any hopes for a postseason berth - but with that 9-1 victory, combined with another Giants win vs. Colorado, now suddenly the Braves are only 3.5 games back in the Wild Card chase. Atlanta has lost 3 of 5, but still picked up a game on Colorado. That's a real gift, and the Braves need to take advantage of it by closing out the series vs. Philly with a W.
The pitching matchup: Jair Jurrjens vs. Joe Blanton.
Jurrjens said last night, "There are plenty of games left in the season. We just have to stay focused and take it one game at a time." And hopefully he'll continue to have success against a Phillies team in which he is already 2-0 with a 0.92 earned run average in three starts this season.
Joe Blanton is 0-1 with a 6.58 career earned run average vs. Atlanta, including four games this season - but he's pitched his best baseball over his past nine games.
Atlanta also caught a break yesterday when Florida lost a second straight home game to San Diego. The Braves head to Florida, of course, for a four-game set starting Monday. Florida has now lost three straight on its current ten-game home stand. I know every game is an independent event, and all that, but the Braves have to be thinking about winning all four games going into that series, and simply because it's hard to imagine Florida losing eight straight at home, I almost hope FL wins today.
I said almost.
Of course I'm pulling for San Diego to sweep FL. And I'm pulling for a Giants sweep vs. Colorado.
Wild Card Standings prior to Sunday's games:
San Francisco 71-59
If things fell into place perfectly today, the Padres, Giants, and Braves would all win, and Atlanta would begin its four-game series in FL trailing the Rockies and Giants by only 2.5 games, and leading the Marlins by two games.
With only two games left for the Braves in August, here is a look at the teams leading the N.L. Wild Card race on September 1 for the past five seasons and the teams that actually won the Wild Card:
2008 - Milwaukee led by 5.5 games and won the Wild Card
2007 - San Diego and Arizona were tied, three games in front of Philly, five games in front of LA, and six games in front of Colorado; Arizona won its division, Colorado won the Wild Card
2006 - San Diego led Philly and Cincinnati by a half game; the Padres and Dodgers finished with identical records, San Diego won the division crown and LA won the Wild Card
2005 - Philly led Houston by a half game, Florida by 1.5, and NY by 2.5; Houston won the Wild Card by one game over Philly
2004 - Chicago led the Giants by one game, the Padres by 1.5, the Marlins and Astros by three games, and Philly by eight games; Houston won the Wild Card by one game over the Giants and three games over the Cubs
Either Colorado or San Francisco will lead on September 1 this year - but, only three times in the past five seasons has the N.L. leader on September 1 made the playoffs, and only once did that team do it as the Wild Card.
In other words, Jurrjens was right - there's still time.
Trivia tidbit: the most runs Cliff Lee has ever surrendered during one inning in his big league career is . . . 5, last night in the fourth inning vs. Atlanta.