Dan Uggla hits home runs, but that's all he does. Image Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Phillies vs. Braves Series Preview

Last night was going well.  Cole Hamels was pitching like the ace we expected and had shut out the Giants through eight innings.  After that, my cable and internet went out so I was unable to watch the end of the game or receive any updates.  I’ll assume that either Hamels or star closer Jonathan Papelbon were able to close it out, sending the Phillies to an inspiring series victory.

They’ll look to carry that momentum into tonight’s series against the first place Atlanta Braves.

The Last Time They Met

Believe it or not, Humberto Quintero helped fuel a Phillies victory. Image Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies were in the midst of their pre-All-Star break hot stretch when they kept beating teams with winning records, inspiring feelings of hope in the fans.  The Phillies won two out of the three games, but in typical Phillies fashion, they still had a negative run differential for the series.

Those games were less than a month ago, but it seems much longer.  Consider that in one of the games, the Phillies offense was fueled by homers from Ryan Howard and Humberto Quintero.

Braves Player Who Isn’t Entirely Horrible

Chris Johnson may be the prototypical late bloomer.  It took him a while to seize an everyday job in the majors, but now that he is getting regular playing time, he is proving quite worthy.

He might not be hitting for much power (only six home runs) but that isn’t limiting his effectiveness.  In June, he had a .374 OBP and a .450 slugging percentage.  He managed to top that in July with a .404/474 performance to go along with 14 RBIs.

In addition, he is riding a streak of seven straight games with multiple hits.  If he can record another one tonight, he will tie a Braves’ franchise record.

Braves Player Who is Horrible

Dan Uggla’s 21 home runs are an impressive total for a second baseman.  The problem with Uggla is that home runs are about the only thing he does well.  If he doesn’t hit a home run, he’s unlikely to get on base.

When Uggla comes up to bat, the most likely outcome is a strikeout.  With 133 strikeouts on the season, he’s gone down on strikes more times than he’s gotten on base.

Some middle infielders compensate for their bat with their glove, but Uggla has never been especially adept in the field either.

Reason for Optimism

Brandon Beachy will be making his second start of the season on Saturday.  Before an injury in 2012, Beachy was considered to be a future star, but his rough 2013 debut (3.2 IP, 7 runs) may be an indication that he hasn’t quite rounded into form yet.

Reason for Optimism – Part Two

Ethan Martin makes his major league debut tonight. Image Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight will mark the debut of rookie starting pitcher Ethan Martin.  Martin was listed on a couple of Top 100 prospects lists before the season, so there’s reason to believe that the future may be looking up for the Phillies.

Reason for Pessimism

The reason why Martin is making his debut is because Cliff Lee is still out with a strained neck.  Not having Lee make his scheduled turns makes it much more difficult for the Phillies to win games.

Final Analysis

Major league baseball isn’t like the NBA.  There’s very little reason for a team to tank the season in hopes of getting a franchise altering superstar.  The Phillies need to play well, win some games, and give the fans some hope that brighter days lay ahead.

For more thoughts on the Phillies and other Philly sports, follow me on Twitter @MikeLacy_215

Tags: Atlanta Braves Baseball Brandon Beachy Chris Johnson Cliff Lee Cole Hamels Dan Uggla Ethan Martin Humberto Quintero Jonathan Papelbon Mike Lacy MLB Philadelphia Phillies Ryan Howard Series Preview

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