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Wounded Animals: Phillies at Braves, 9/3-5

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September 3: Braves 5, Phillies 1 WP: Cormier (2-4) LP: Moyer (12-11)
September 4: Phillies 5, Braves 2 WP: Lohse (8-12) LP: Carlyle (8-6) S: Myers (14)
September 5: Braves 9, Phillies 8 WP: Soriano LP: Myers

For more on the Braves, please visit our SBN sister site Talking Chop

I'm writing this one a little late, as the first game is already three innings old with no score. But after yesterday I'm somewhat surprised I even have enough mental toughness to watch today, TBS asshats and all.

What I've learned from watching the first three innings is that the Braves are something like 11 games below .500 since mid-May, when they reached their high-water mark for this season. I don't fully understand why. Their offense, while not the "league's best" touted repeatedly by the "Baseball Tonight" bobbleheads, is damn good: Kelly Johnson, both Joneses, Brian McCann, and trade deadline pickup Mark Teixiera are all well above average hitters at their positions, Buy-a-Vowel in right field is a dangerous slugger, and both currently-disabled Edgar Renteria and fill-in Yunel Escobar are pretty good at shortstop. Their pitching isn't great, but it's a damn sight better than ours: John Smoltz and Tim Hudson are still quality, Chuck James is a decent mid-rotation guy, and the bullpen is replete with useful arms like Rafael Soriano, Peter Moylan and Ron Mahay, who came over with Teixiera.

Yet it hasn't come together for them, and after getting swept by the Mets this past weekend they are barely hanging on in the playoff chase. With Andruw Jones a month from free agency, Chipper Jones and John Smoltz getting toward the end of their careers, and manager Bobby Cox and GM John Schuerholz both likely within a year or two of retirement, we could be approaching the end of an era in Atlanta.

The Braves and Phillies have split their first twelve meetings this season, with Atlanta winning five of the first six (including a sweep at OFJOAB to open the season) and the Phils taking five of the last six (including a sweep in Turner Field back in june). Interesting note: the Phillies hit into no double plays over those last six contests, but already have hit into two through four innings this afternoon.