We’re in September, the season’s winding down. The Braves are still bad, but not that bad — they’re not even the worst team in baseball coming into play tonight.
But, that may not do much for tonight’s game, as Joel de la Cruz once again takes the hill. A career minor leaguer until this year, de la Cruz has been pretty much as expected this season: a replacement-level pitcher, or thereabouts. His 4.66 ERA, 5.34 FIP, and 5.17 xFIP are about as pedestrian as you can get, especially if the pedestrian ends up being hit by a car that swerves onto the sidewalk.
With that said, the Braves have actually won two of his seven starts, including his first major league start, which came against these very same Phillies. As it was a spot start, de la Cruz only lasted four and a third innings, but allowed just three hits and two walks. Still, he didn’t strike anyone out, and the Braves ended up edging the Phillies 2-1. He’s allowed 12 runs in his past two starts (nine earned), so hopefully he can recapture some of that magic or else it’ll be a long (or very short) Friday night for Braves fans.
The Braves have seen Jeremy Hellickson twice already this season, and Hellickson continues to enjoy a weirdly resurgent season. After being a generic #4 starter type with the Rays for 2011 through 2013, Hellickson struggled a bit and was dealt to the Diamondbacks after the 2014 season, where he failed to replicate his earlier effectiveness. he was traded to the Phillies this past offseason, and has had by far his best season ever, with a 3.80 ERA, 4.16 FIP, and 3.97 xFIP. It also came as a surprise that he wasn’t moved this July, but as a result, he’s around to face the Braves in September.
In July, Hellickson kept the Braves to two runs (one earned) in six innings; the Braves lost that game on the ridiculous Freddy Galvis home run off of a now-ineffective Arodys Vizcaino. Then, about a month ago, he beat the Braves with a three-run effort, including hitting his own go-ahead two-run double off of Julio Teheran.
For those keeping track, this is actually supposed to be Aaron Blair’s spot in the rotation, but de la Cruz is getting the start as Blair remains on the roster but will not take part in game action to focus on mechanical issues.
Also, happy day: Ryan Howard’s time with the Phillies is finally coming to an end. So perhaps the Braves will not need to endure the ignominy of being repeatedly killed by a guy who has been worth about two runs below replacement since 2012. Of course, this probably just means the Marlins will sign him, where he will learn to play left field and kill the Braves anyway while being unplayable against everyone else.
Friday, September 2, 2016, 7:05 pm ET
Citizens Bank Park, Philadephia, PA
TV: Fox Sports South
Radio: WYAY 106.7, Braves Radio network, 680 AM / 93.7 FM