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Braves miss out on series sweep

Atlanta squandered what should have been a series sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies. With a win in game 1 and significant leads in games 2 and 3, the Braves were unable to hold off the Philly offense. Atlanta dropped the series, and maybe the season.

Atlanta Braves hats & merchandise Game 1 looked good for Atlanta. Jair Jurrjens pitched a gem. He threw 8 shutout innings, giving up only 3 hits and striking out 6. Brian McCann had a solo home run in the 4th inning and added a grand slam in the 9th. Atlanta’s offense blew the game open, putting up 7 runs in the 9th inning. The Phillies answered with 2 runs in the ninth, but didn’t have nearly enough. Atlanta would win 8-2. McCann now has 20 home runs on the season and 62 runs batted in. He leads all catchers in both categories. He is having an extremely good start to his young career. His statistics are as good, if not better than Johnny Bench through the same number of games to begin their career.

Game 2 also looked good for Atlanta, until the 5th inning. Mike Hampton made his first start since 2005. Many probably wish he had gotten hurt again. He would give up 6 runs in just 4 innings, which would tax Atlanta’s bullpen greatly. The Phillies were off to a quick start, leading Atlanta 3-0 until the 4th inning. The Braves’ bats exploded for 9 runs off of Cole Hamels. Philadelphia would return the favor in the 5th by scoring 7 runs. Philly would hold the lead and Atlanta would lose 10-9. This was a devastating loss for a team that looked as if they had turned the corner on the season.

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Game 3 was much of the same for Atlanta. They jumped out to a 5-0 lead after a rain delayed game to back Jorge Campillo and Jo-Jo Reyes. The Phillies would immediately answer back with 5 runs to tie the game. They would add 7 more to bury Atlanta. The Braves climbed back into it with 5 runs in the 8th inning, but couldn’t come up with anything in the 9th to lose 12-10. This was another crushing loss. Twice in this series, the Braves had a lead of at least 5 runs and would go on to lose the game. Atlanta needed only 1 win in the final 2 games of the series to secure their first winning road trip of the season. They are now only 18-35 on the road this season.

Not only did Atlanta lose the series, they lost Brian McCann. Brian laid motionless for several seconds after a collision at home plate with Shane Victorino. Jeff Francoeur launched a throw from right field to home plate when Shane collided with McCann. He would leave the field under his own power and was diagnosed with a concussion after the game. Atlanta will likely promote catcher Clint Sammons to replace McCann.

Chipper Jones may have to go on the disabled list with a pulled hamstring. This would be another devastating loss for the Braves who are fighting for their season. They will most likely be missing 2 of their best hitters for another very important series against the Cardinals. Mike Hampton somehow did not injure himself during his first start and will make his next, barring some incident.

After losing more ground in the National League East, Atlanta will probably be sellers at the trade-deadline. The most likely players to go are first baseman Mark Teixeira, pitcher Will Ohman and center fielder Mark Kotsay. All will be free agents at the end of the year and will command money the Braves are not willing to spend. Atlanta would like to trade them instead of losing them to free agency. The Braves would rather get players via trade than to receive draft picks as compensation for the free agent departures.

On Monday, the St. Louis Cardinals come to town to face the Braves. Brandon Looper (9-8) was scheduled to face Jo-Jo Reyes in game 1. The rain delay in the series finale with the Phillies forced Jo-Jo to pitch. Atlanta will likely recall Charlie Morton to pitch on Monday. Game 2 on Wednesday will have Todd Wellemeyer (8-4) duel with Tim Hudson (11-7). Hudson is coming back from a shortened outing due to tightness in his elbow. Game 3 has Chris Carpenter (0-0) making his season debut against Jair Jurrjens (10-5). Carpenter is coming off of Tommy John surgery while Jurrjens is coming off an 8-inning gem. The series finale has Joel Pineiro (3-4) facing Mike Hampton (0-0). Hampton will try to improve on his first start since 2005.


By Ben Burrows
Atlanta Braves Correspondent

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