Previewing Tomorrow's Braves/Phillies Game


If you’ve been following the NL playoff picture at all, you certainly know by now the importance of two games tomorrow: the Phillies/Braves matchup and the Giants/Padres game.

It breaks down like this:

If the Giants win, they win the NL West.

If the Giants win and the Braves win, the Padres are out.

If the Giants win and the Braves lose, the Padres and Braves have a one-game playoff to decide the final NL playoff slot.

If the Braves lose and the Padres win, then the Padres take the NL West and the Giants get the wild card.

If the Braves and Padres both win, then the Giants and Padres play a fourth game to decide the division, with the loser playing Atlanta for the wild card.

Confused yet? Well, let’s just hope for a Padres win and Braves loss, shall we?

Anyway, let’s take a look at the Phillies’ odds of taking out the Braves tomorrow, thus guaranteeing San Diego at least one more game in 2010.

It’ll certainly be quite the pitching matchup in Atlanta, with Cole Hamels facing off against Tim Hudson.

The high-powered Phillies offense will be doing its best to get Hudson’s diving sinkers and splitters off the ground, making for a really intriguing matchup. Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley have had trouble with Hudson in the past, but Shane Victorino (.258/.378/.516) and Raul Ibanez (.326/.392/.478) have hung in there with him, and Ryan Howard (.359/.468/.846) has had little trouble with the short righthander, bashing six homers in 39 career at-bats off Hudson.

That’s a mixed bag on both sides, but Cole Hamels looks to have the upper hand against the Atlanta lineup. Their most dangerous righthanded power threat is probably Brooks Conrad, and while he’s an underrated player with good pop, he’s not as imposing as the Howards and Utleys of the world. Derrek Lee and Omar Infante have their virtues, but neither will scare anybody. The lineup’s two biggest power threats, Jason Heyward and Brian McCann, are lefties, which doesn’t bode well against the lefty Hamels. McCann is a .333/.415/.583 career hitter off of Hamels, though.

The issue of intangibles is cropping up a lot in the discussion of tomorrow’s game, with the conventional line being that “the Braves have more to play for, so they’ll play harder.” A couple comments on this:

1.) In an exacting game like baseball, harder isn’t always better. You don’t want pitchers overthrowing and batters overswinging. Hustle’s great, sure, but let’s not overstate the impact here.
2.) Let’s face it: these Braves are seen as a more formidable foe on paper than the Padres, and the Padres’ underdog status and September struggles probably has the Phillies seeing San Diego as an easier potential opponent. You don’t think they’ll play hard to make that happen? That’s not to mention the potential fun of playing spoiler, especially to a rival.

Hopefully, Hamels & Co. pull it out tomorrow.

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