The Principality

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Beachy Unlucky As Braves Drop 8th Straight To Phillies

Following the weekend visit of the Pirates, the Braves welcomed the Philadelphia Phillies to Turner Field on Tuesday for the first time in 2012.  This was the first time the two teams had met since the last three games of 2011, when the Phillies left the Ted with a sweep and in doing so dashed the Braves’ chances of making the playoffs.  Such was the collapse in September that going into Tuesday’s matchup, the Braves had dropped seven straight against Philadelphia, dating back to July.  Sadly for Atlanta, any thoughts of a fresh start in 2012 were short-lived as the Phillies ran out 4-2 winners in game one of this three-game series.

With the Phillies holding an 11-12 record on the young season, a lineup lacking last season’s power of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez and Brandon Beachy on the mound for the Braves (entering the game with a 1.05 ERA), it looked a good bet that the Braves would break Philadelphia’s hold on them. 

Beachy began the game well with a perfect first three innings and a low pitch count.  However, the offense couldn’t capitalise on the youngster’s ruthless efficiency.  For the Phillies, Cole Hamels was proving equally as effective and all the Braves could muster was a couple stranded base-runners in the same period.  In the fourth inning, Beachy retired his tenth straight hitter to begin the inning, but Phillies third baseman, Placido Polanco broke up Beachy’s perfect start with a single to right.  Beachy then came out on top of an epic 11-pitch battle with Shane Victorino, but followed up by giving up a double to Hunter Pence and a single to Ty Wiggington.  Wiggington’s RBI knock was miscued by Martin Prado in left field, allowing both Polanco and Pence to score. 

Despite this setback, Beachy and the Braves fought back.  Brian McCann launched his fourth home run of the year to right field off Hamels in the bottom half of the inning and Juan Francisco brought home Freddie Freeman in the sixth on an RBI sacrifice-fly to tie the game.  Beachy kept the game tight through seven innings, giving up just two more hits and exiting the game with a couple of strikeouts and without issuing a walk.  The no-decision meant he remains winless in seven career starts against the Phillies. 

Despite Beachy’s stellar effort, the Phillies win came from the most unlikely of sources.  Normally Atlanta’s ‘Mr Reliable’, Jonny Venters came unstuck in the 8th inning and took his first loss and indeed first earned runs of the new season.  Phillies pinch-hitter, John Mayberry squeezed a one-out, bloop double down the right field line, followed by an infield single by Jimmy Rollins, which moved him to third base.  Venters then struck out Polanco, but on a wild pitch, allowing Mayberry to canter home.  Pence followed up with an RBI single to add some insurance. 

"I didn't make pitches with guys on, and they made me pay for it," Venters said. "There are no excuses.  Brandon pitched his butt off today, and we were in the game in the eighth. For me to let it get away like that, it's unacceptable.  Some things definitely didn't go our way, but at the same time, I've got to make better pitches in those situations. I left some sinkers up in the zone, and they don't miss those pitches." 

Venters’ hard assessment on his performance emphasised the disappointment felt by everyone in the clubhouse.  "We were all set up to win that ballgame and it kind of hurts," lamented Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. "But it just wasn't Jonny's day."  It was not the Braves day either against the Phillies for the 8th game in succession.  Freddie Freeman had led off the 8th inning with a single, but Phillies reliever, Chad Qualls, induced a ground-ball double play.  Matt Diaz then followed up Dan Uggla’s base hit with a walk, but Francisco struck out to end the inning and any real hope the Braves had.  The ninth inning seemed to be over before it even began, with closer Jonathan Papelbon needing eleven pitches to retire the side in order.

Nonetheless, the Braves’ attitude is that tomorrow is another day and Wednesday’s matchup sees the battle of the big guns.  Tommy Hanson will get the nod for Atlanta to take on Phillies ace, Roy Halladay as the Braves look to break the Phillies’ hoodoo over them and reclaim first place in the NL East. 

Andrew Bracegirdle

1st May 2012