The Principality

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Braves Beat Phils, Snatch First Place

 

After an appalling start to the 2010 season, capped by a nine game losing streak, the Atlanta Braves ended the month of May in the surprising and unfamiliar position of first place in the NL East.  Of course, this was a familiar position for fourteen wonderful years, but of late it has been the sole home of the Philadelphia Phillies and with only really Chipper Jones surviving from the dominant team of the 1990s and early 2000s fans could be forgiven for forgetting what it felt like.

Though the season is just two months old and 51 games in, the Braves have not been in first this late into a season since the last of their fourteen straight division titles in 2005.  It is a position which everyone involved hopes to build upon for the rest of the campaign and it was both fitting and morale-boosting to take possession of it by beating the Phillies 9-3 in Atlanta.

The future looks bright for the Braves as their team is packed with quality young players, not least pitcher Tommy Hanson, who improved his record to 5-3 on the year with 6.2 confident innings in which he gave up just one earned run and didn’t issue a walk past the second inning.  He was able to retire fourteen of the last fifteen batters he faced and with ample run support, took the win with the minimum of fuss.

However, the game was as much about experience as it was youth as a rejuvenated Chipper Jones gave the Braves the lead with a two-run home run in the first inning.  He was backed with a three-RBI day from first baseman Troy Glaus, who improved his average to .274 following his poor form early in the campaign.  Glaus is shaping up to be one of the Braves’ most reliable bats and finished May with 28 RBI having accumulated just 9 in April.  Despite his success in May, he remains firmly focused on the task ahead.

"You only remember who is in first place at the end of September," noted Glaus.  "Nobody looks back and says, 'Well, we were first place in June.' That's not why we're here. It's nice to be in first place certainly. It means we're playing well. That needs to continue."

In contrast, it was a miserable day for the Phillies, who endured their seventh loss in nine games, a spell in which they have only scored 10 runs.  Even during Roy Halladay’s perfect game, Saturday, they could only muster one run.  The Braves though will have little sympathy for their division rivals having gone through their own tough spell at the end of April.  Much as the Braves have been able to recover, the experienced Jones is wary of writing off the Phillies too soon.

"They've got too good of players to be going through the funk that they're going through," Jones said. "You know at some point, they're going to break out of it. You just hope it's not against you.".

The Braves hope to pile more misery onto the Phillies tomorrow when they send Tim Hudson (5-1) to the mound to face Cole Hamels (5-3).  A Phillies win would send them back to the top of the standings, but even if this happens, they will now know that the Braves are back and ready to push them all the way to October.

Andrew Bracegirdle

1st June 2010