As of this writing, the Braves sit 3 games behind the Phillies in the NL East standings and 2.5 games ahead of the Padres in the Wild Card race. You probably knew that. You probably also knew that this evening commences a fairly momentous occasion, i.e. a 3-game set with said Phillies which HAPPENS to be exactly how many games the Braves trail by. I think I might've mentioned that before.
As such, sweeperation is in order. Break out the brooms (and perhaps the dustpans if you don't want to leave a mess, but that's really up to you) and the bubbly if you're disposed to such actions, 'cause I'mma take a look at why these next three games are all sure wins.
Game 1: Tonight, 7:05 PM
Brandon Beachy vs. Cole Hamels
Cole Hamels seems like a really super fella, doesn't he? I mean, just look at him:
What a handsome devil! Married a former Survivor and Playmate, has a charitable foundation for kids, is trying to adopt an AIDS orphan from Ethiopia, and has MARVELOUS hair. I mean, that's the kind of hair that a guy who threw 25 consecutive scoreless innings rocks! Hamels is rolling hot, having allowed 1 earned run in his last four starts combined, and struck out a career-high 13 Marlins in just 6.2 innings last time out.
But it was just last year that Phillies fans were SO SICK of this guy. So sick, you guys. I mean, read the comments in this article, where Hamels talked about how he just wanted his season to end. Based on some bad luck - his FIP was precisely the same in 2008, when he was a big star, and 2009, when he was reviled - many Phillies fans assumed that the World Series had gone to his head and that he was becoming Hollywood Hamels in all the wrong ways. If there is a right way; the only other guy I know of named Hollywood in pro sports was insane.
But, like I said, Hamels seems a decent fella. So surely he wouldn't want all those fans to be wrong for having booed him the way they did, right? For having made up their mind that he was no longer their guy? What better way to give them what they want than by turning in a nice 3 IP, 6 ER, 3 BB, 2 K line? I bet they'd love that, Cole. They'd eat it right up. They'd be right.
Besides, he's not good enough to keep rolling like he has. You'll give up so many runs one of these days, Hamels. So many runs.
As for Beachy, here's a brief scouting report that's helpful if you're into actual scouting reports. If you want my take, I'll tell you that the dude joined the Braves' system as a 21-year old in rookie ball. Two years later, and he's pitched at each and every level in the minors, and dominated everywhere. For his minor league career, he's thrown 208 innings of 2.55 ERA ball, striking out an outstanding 9.9 per 9 while walking just 2.1. That's a 4.65 K:BB ratio, and that's some kind of excellence. His college coach had this to say about him:
"“He is a hard thrower. He has a plus-fastball and he has learned how to throw a nice cutter. He also has a reliever’s mentality — he doesn’t want to finesse people, he is going to challenge people."
You may recall that Cole Hamels' success has come this year as he's added a cutter to his repertoire. Brandon Beachy, then, is at least as good as Cole Hamels. QED.
What gives Beachy the edge, though? Two things: (1) he went to Indiana Wesleyan University. Pretty sweet state, Indiana. (2) He'll never be in a neatly Photoshopped ad for condos where he and his wife dress up in all white and he lovingly caresses her stomach. The internet never forgets, Cole.
Game 2: 7:05 PM
Mike Minor vs. Roy Halladay
You know how in Chile a bunch of miners got stuck in a mine after it collapsed on them? And how the government isn't going to be able to get them out of there until, like, December? That's extremely awful, right? Right. Hey, you know whose name is a homonym with 'miner?' I'll give you a hint: it's not 'Halladay.' Miners and their ilk - e.g. homonyms, moles, gophers - are due some good karma from that. Trust me.
But what about Halladay, you might say? What about the man they call Doc? Isn't he, like, really good? Well, yes. Yes, he is. But his nickname comes from Old Westerner Doc Holliday, who was called Doc because he was a dentist. It's true! He graduated from the Pennsylvania School of Dentistry in 1872. Now, I ask you: do you like dentists? Would those of you who are neither kin nor spouse to a dentist say that you've ever enjoyed their company? DOUBTFUL. So what makes you think the Phillies D is gonna play hard for the guy?
Well, perhaps fiery quotes like this gem about the upcoming series are rally cries for his team:
"I think from my standpoint, I expect to do well every time I go out. My expectations are the same, my approach is the same. The emphasis on the game, when you get to this point in the season, is obviously more important."
Whoa, slow down now, Roy. You might start to sound interesting. Hey, you know what Roy Halladay's really good at? Striking out. He does it in 45.9% of his PAs, which is only slightly less often than Ryan Howard. And I thought Doc was supposed to be a gamer.
Game 3: 7:05 PM
Tommy Hanson vs. Roy Oswalt
Tommy Hanson is 23 and has, in his career, struck out more batters per 9 than the 33-year old Oswalt while walking slightly more (2.8; 2.09). Hanson's 3.43 FIP is comparable to Oswalt's 3.35. Hanson is young and cool; Oswalt is old, does not look like a chill bro, and used to pitch for the Astros*. Who here likes any of those things? Anyone?
Also, Dom Brown is a low-rent Jason Heyward. We all know it.
*Incidentally, ESPN's Steve Berthiaume wrote a column about how the Astros yes the Astros are going to win the division in 2011. It's probably funnier if I just don't try to make a joke about that.
So to recap: everyone's writing about how the Braves are going up against the Phillies' Big 3 while keeping their rotation intact. No one is pitching on short rest, and Jurrjens is getting the opportunity to rest a tweaked knee during what is probably the most important series of the rest of the season. Does that seem ill-advised as we near the end of Bobby Cox's final regular season? Maybe. But the Braves have the best FIP in baseball and trail only the Padres in xFIP - and that by one point. The Braves predicated 14 consecutive division titles on the principle that great pitching beats great hitting, so it would be only appropriate if the Braves lay the foundation for another title on the same ideal - except instead of beating 'great' hitting, it's beating '13th-best wOBA in MLB' hitting. And so ye faithful, ye champions of decency: regard well as the Braves go forth and lay claim to their hereby preordained sweep. It'll be a pretty good time.