It's been an extremely rough season for most of the Braves, especially B.J. Upton, who became the Braves' single-season Strikeout King last night which seemed like a fitting end to another miserable season in a Braves uniform. However, tonight wasn't a miserable night for B.J., as he joined his brother Justin Upton with a home run and throwing a runner out at home. Both brothers played a major role in giving the Braves a 2-run victory over the Phillies.
Just like last night, the Braves started off scoring pretty early, as they made their initial mark on the scoreboard in the 2nd inning. Justin Upton and Jason Heyward started off the season with a double and a single, respectively. That brought Christian Bethancourt up to bat, and he managed to accomplish a rare feat: A productive double play! The RBI GIDP made it 1-0 for Atlanta.
However, the Phillies immediately brought the scores level in the next inning, because apparently Ryan Howard is physically incapable of going an entire series without hurting the Braves in some way, shape, or form. As bad as he's been this season (against everyone but the Braves), if you give him a 72-mph meatball right across the plate like Aaron Harang did, he will crush it. He did just that, as the ball ended up nearly landing in the Braves bullpen in right center field. That is a long way out, and a clear exhibition of the power that still resides inside Ryan Howard's bat when he isn't struggling against nearly every other team in baseball.
Just as the Phillies quickly leveled things, the Braves immediately reclaimed the lead in the next frame, and this time another player with negative fWAR for the season went deep. B.J. Upton was the man to do it, as he crushed a fastball from A.J. Burnett into the right field seats for a solo opposite-field homer, bringing the score to 2-1. In addition, Ervin Santana got to do his best Hawk Harrelson impression, as you'll see below:
The 4th and 5th innings came and passed with no runs scored by either team, and both of the Upton brothers were big reasons why the Phillies didn't score in those two innings. In the 4th inning, Juston Upton turned what would've been an RBI single by Ryan Howard into the first out of that inning as his throw beat Chase Utley to home plate. That was a close play, but B.J. Upton's throw to home plate wasn't close at all. In fact, it was pretty clear that Will Nieves was going to be a dead duck if B.J.'s throw was on target. It was, and the throw ended the inning as the Upton Bros. kept 2 runs from going under Philly's "R" column in 2 consecutive innings.
After failing to add another run in the board in the previous 2 innings, the Phillies finally got that 2nd run to tie the game up again, and once again, Ryan Howard was the man at the center of the action. With Chase Utley on 2nd base after a 1-out double, everyone's favorite Phillie hit a line drive to right-center field to bring in Utley to tie the game. There are plenty of things that I won't miss about this season, and one of those things will definitely be Ryan Howard magically turning into a competent hitter whenever he runs into the Braves. He came into the series with a .219 average. Now he's at .223/.309/.380 for the season, with 92 wRC+ to boot. At this point, though, you may as well throw all those numbers out of the window whenever the Braves lock horns with the Phillies, because the man just enjoys playing against Atlanta and I hate it so, so much.
One thing that I'm sure the fans in Philadelphia hated was the fact that the Upton Brothers weren't done tormenting them. Up until that point, A.J. Burnett was having a pretty decent night keeping the normally anemic Braves offense at bay. However, things started off pretty badly for Ol' Burnett as he gave Freddie Freeman a free pass to kick off the 7th inning. Justin Upton then made Burnett pay for that mistake by smashing Burnett's 100th pitch of the night into the left field seats for a 2-run homer, giving the Braves a 4-2 lead. In the midst of all of these shameful offensive displays by the Braves, J-Up has been one of the lone bright spots this season and it's really pleasant to see that he's finishing the season on a strong note.
Another guy who finished his season strong was Aaron Harang. We've been pretty hard on the guy, but his season was definitely one of the most pleasant surprises of the season, and his final start of the season (and probably his final start in a Braves uniform) was one of his better starts of the season: 6.2 IP, 5 Ks, and only 2 BBs allowed. His exit in the 7th inning gave way to the bullpen entering and having another solid night, as Chasen Shreve and David Carpenter both ran through their batters without giving up a hit.
So naturally, once Craig Kimbrel was summoned from hibernation, he ended up having a tiny adventure in the 9th inning because nothing comes easy around here. Marlon Byrd started off the bottom of the 9th with a single, and an awkward grounder from Dominic Brown resulted in Andrelton Simmons having a rare defensive gaffe. Simba's error put the tying run on base, and a sacrifice bunt from Tony Gwynn Jr. put that tying run in scoring position with only 1 out. A strikeout and a walk later, the game was now on the bat of Ben Revere. A lot of cynics out there were probably rooting for a Ben Revere grand slam just so they could see the world collapse on itself, but instead we saw him hit a liner to Simba, who made the catch to end the game.
The Braves are now one win away from clinching 2nd place in the division. They may not have a winning record, but at least they'll have a shot at being the best mediocre team in the NL East! Meanwhile, here's your reminder that the Braves season will be over by this time tomorrow. There's only 1 game left, folks. Make sure you enjoy it (or at least try to enjoy it) while you can, because it'll be a long winter.