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Game 117 Recap: Phillies 4, Braves 1

There's not a whole lot to discuss about with this game - the Braves put up a stinker for the night, and they lost as a result.  In the end, the Phillies stretch out their lead in the division, and we the fans go home disappointed until the next win.

The game started an hour and 47 minutes late, due to rain.  Funny thing is, I live maybe 17 miles away from Turner Field, and I was in my backyard grilling meat on the grill, with sure, a little bit of wind, but not a drop of rain then, or the entire evening.  But since we can't risk disappointing the four-lettered network, the game must go on, and we're stuck listening to Jon Miller and Joe Morgan blabber on about the most idiotic things since the Macarena, Peanut Butter Jelly Time or Hamster Dance.

More game synopsis and discussion after the jump.

Final - 8.16.2009 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Philadelphia Phillies 0 1 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 4 7 0
Atlanta Braves 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 4 0
WP: J.A. Happ (9 - 2)
SV: Brad Lidge (23)
LP: Javier Vazquez (10 - 8)

Complete Coverage >

Javier Vazquez came out and put up another respectable performance, going seven full innings, allowing six hits, walking two, while striking out seven.  Unfortunately for him, two of those hits were home runs to Ryan Howard, the first of which being a solo shot that barely made it over the right-center wall.  The second one, however, was a mammoth blast into the right-field seats, with the worst part being that Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino were on base at the time.  Howard accounted for all four Philly runs on the evening.  Take him out of the picture, and Javy's night was solid; he kept the prominent offensive cogs pretty ineffective (Rollins 1-4, Utley 0-3 2K, Ibanez 0-4 2K, Werth 0-4 2K).

Howard had a monster evening, but the man of the night was Philly starter J.A. Happ, whom in 7.2 innings, not only held the Braves to a measley three hits, but also got out of two big jams (1st, 6th innings) to kick the wind out of the Braves' sails.  It was frustrating for the Braves, as Happ showed some inconsistency in his location, as evidenced by his six walks, but the Braves would either hit into double-plays, or strike out on the high fastball that Happ threw for about 6.1 innings before they figured it out, to negate any base-runners or scoring threats.  Despite the four cumulative hits on the night, the Braves still managed to strand a whopping 11 runners on base; definitely not pretty.

If there was anything positive for the Atlanta Braves on this night, it would be that Matt Diaz continued to ** rule, by having himself a 2-for-4 night, and accounted for the Braves' lone run with an impressive golf-swing of an opposite-field home run off of Happ in the 4th inning.

Two things I'd like to bring up for discussion:

Brad Lidge credited with a "save."  He pitched 0.1 IP, with a man on base, a slap-hitting utility man at-bat, and the kind-of-mediocre tying-run being on-deck.  I understand that this still falls within the criteria of a one-out save, but I think it's still kind of ridiculous.

Brian McCann, clean-up hitter for a whole season?  Now I love Baby Jesus as much as most Braves fans do, but is anyone else feeling the apprehension at having Heap batting clean-up throughout an entire season?  Since the all-star break, he's batting .248/.313/.495, and there might not be a more suitable replacement for the #4 spot in the lineup, but I suppose what I'm saying is my concern over Heap being put in the role of the run producer.  Over the off-season, I was in the minority of not wanting McCann being a cleanup guy, due to the fact that he's a catcher, the most physically strenuous position in baseball, and toll it takes doing the catching duties as well as being expected to be the RBI guy.  We've seen late-season falterings from McCann in previous years, and I admire all the physical hard work he's put in over the last off-season to improve his physical conditioning, but watching the games, I'm finding his at-bats predictable, and IMO, not what I'm hoping to see from a clean-up guy. 

Some here used to joke about Casey Kotchman being "Mr. 3U," for all the balls he'd hit right to the first baseman, but I actually find that McCann is, and has long been a more succeptible candidate to pull the ball right to first.  Some teams have actually employed a shift on McCann.  At least once a game, we'll see McCann clobber the snot out of a baseball hard into the first-base seats, which if you could hear me, I would always declare "the (McCann) Super Foul."

Since the all-star break, he's had four multi-hit games, and none in the month of August.  In fact, his batting numbers drop to .163/.245/.279 and only 3 XBH in the month of August.  I think he either needs to go have one of his meetings with his dad, or whether he realizes it or not, is beginning to show the signs late-season fatigue.

Part of a dilemma is the fact that there's nobody else seemingly suitable to take the role of the #4 hitter.  I'm not to keen on the idea of Garret Anderson being the clean-up guy, nor do I like the idea of Adam LaRoche doing it, either.  Call me crazy, but out of everyone on the everyday roster, I'd be curious to see Yunel Escobar at the cleanup spot.  At first, I thought Nate McLouth, but that would open up the dilemma of having a lead-off guy.  Escobar has responded positively in the five-spot; he also seems least likely to have one of those idiosyncratic ineptitudes in an unfamiliar batting spot.

Anyway, just a thought, and hopefully it sparks some interesting discussion.  gondeee returns from his Dances With Wolves-like sabbatical in the Cherokee mountains starting tomorrow, and cbtits and I return you to your regularly scheduled program, which is an unfortunate make-up game between the Arizona Diamondbacks, back from the rain-shortened series in May.  Tentatively scheduled is a battle of young guns, Max Scherzer vs. Tommy Hanson.  If you recall, the series was tied at 1-1, so let's hope that Hanson can deliver, and the Braves can bounce back from a series loss, to a quick series win.

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