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#FlopOn: Phillies vs. Braves series preview

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The Braves are coming to town, so get your hashtags ready!

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Boston Red Sox
Drew Smyly has not been a good addition for the Braves
Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies offense scored double-digit runs in two games last week, so there’s hope that with Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto healthy, the lineup is finally starting to hit at the level we expected. With the division rival Braves (7-13 at Citizens Bank Park since the start of 2019) and their underwhelming rotation coming to town, this would be an ideal time to show that the offensive renaissance is for real.

Atlanta Braves

Record: 28-29 (Second place in National League East)

The last time they met

After easily taking the first game at Truist Park, the Phillies blew a lead three different times and lost in 12 innings in game two. They then fell behind early in the finale and basically slept their way through the rest of the game.

Since then

Like everyone in the National League East, the Braves have muddled along, going 11-12 in the games since that series. They did just beat the Dodgers two out of three times, but I assume the Dodgers saw an Eastern team on the schedule and simply didn’t try very hard.

Least valuable player

Early in free agency, the Braves rushed out to sign Drew Smyly to an $11 million deal. For that above-market price, the Braves have received a 5.98 ERA and -0.6 wins above replacement. The last time he faced the Phillies, he allowed five runs in five innings. He is due to start against them in the series opener.

Nice while it lasted

With Christian Pache spending most of the season either being injured or not hitting well, most of the playing time in centerfield for the Braves has fallen to 30-year-old journeyman Guillermo Heredia. That started off well enough when he had an 1.004 OPS at the end of April.

Since then, Heredia has shown why he hasn’t been able to hold down a regular job for the past few years. He’s gone homerless since the start of May, and his OPS for the past two weeks is just .462. Have Braves fans caught on to the fact that he’s been struggling?

Whither the Chop?

Remember when the Braves were going to consider suspending the use of the Tomahawk Chop at games? Would you like to guess whether or not they followed up on that?

You don’t have to guess, because you already knew how it was going to turn out. Even if the team wasn’t still playing the drum beat sounds, the fans would still assuredly be doing the Chop, claiming - with no irony intended - that it was an important part of the team’s history and heritage.

Wanna read a Twitter thread by someone who’s proud of something he shouldn’t be? Here you go:

To their credit - and let me assure you, I want to give them as little credit for this as possible - the team account has switched from the #ChopOn hashtag. Being the Braves, they somehow managed to find the dumbest replacement possible in #ForTheA.

#ForTheA? That’s really the best they could come up with? The Braves franchise and the city of Atlanta both have a lengthy history to draw from, so it feels like they surely could have found something a little more clever or meaningful than that. My guess is that they had a list of ten alternatives, and #ForTheA was the only one that didn’t reference the Confederacy in some way.

Speaking of #ChopOn

There was some tough competition, but I think I found the worst Atlanta Braves fan in existence:

Who would have guessed that on the Venn Diagram, the circles of “People who don’t like masks or vaccines” and “People who like the Tomahawk Chop” would overlap a little?

Punchable face analysis

I’ve chosen a guy who has oddly - and maddeningly - become a Phillies nemesis: Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval has 12 hits in 2021. Two of them have been game-tying home runs against the Phillies.

MLB: San Francisco Giants-Media Day Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Look at that expression! It’s like he knows he has no business being a Major League player, and yet there he is anyway! Like many punchable faces, I’m pretty sure he understands that any punches received are well deserved.

Trivia

Last series’ answer: Jayson Werth LOVED tormenting his former home fans, and hit 15 homers at Citizens Bank Park as a National. That total will very likely get passed - and soon - by Juan Soto, who already has 11 homers in Philly. GBrettFan with the correct answer.

This series’ question: On April 14, 2014, a Phillies pitcher faced three Braves batters and surrendered home runs to all three. Who was the pitcher? (Bonus points for every one of the three batters you can name.)

What to expect

  • A healthy Bryce Harper against the Braves is almost guaranteed to hit at least one home run a series.
  • Zack Wheeler will further bolster his case for the All-Star Game with a strong performance in the finale.
  • Sandoval will NOT hit a game-tying home run. But he’ll still probably get a key hit at some point, because baseball is stupid sometimes.

Closing thought that may or may not be relevant to the series

Some might say that previewing a series against the Braves without once mentioning the names Freddie Freeman or Ronald Acuña Jr isn’t telling a complete story. So there: I’ve mentioned them.