As if to cruelly pile onto the Braves misery – and, I guess, because the schedule commanded – the Philadelphia Phillies have come to town.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, here’s your result from Tuesday night: Philadelphia 3, Braves 2.
And, just like that, the Phillies acquired as many 2016 victories at Turner Field as the home team.
This was the outfit that was supposed to keep the Braves company in the darkest depths of the NL East. Instead, it showed up here Tuesday with more than double the number of victories (19-14 after Tuesday’s win), its head swelled by the many compliments about what a big, pleasant surprise it has been. All with basically the same modest tools as the Braves.
It is one thing to be shown up by the cool kids in the league. Now the Braves were looking puny compared to a fellow member of the Chess Club.
These Phils, like the Braves, are offensively inert, coming to town with team batting average just a measly one point better than the Braves. Philadelphia was 28th in baseball in runs, the Braves 30th and last. The Phillies 25 home runs seemed bountiful compared to the Braves seven (each team added one Tuesday), yet that ranked only 27th in the Majors.
These Phils, like the Braves, began the season on a sour note, although their four-game losing streak looked almost whimsical by comparison to the start of the season hereabouts.
And yet here they were Tuesday night, five games over .500. While the Braves would require a 22-game winning streak to reach such a lofty place.
Looking up at the Nats and Mets (against whom Philadelphia has a 7-5 record) is one thing. Swallowing the wake of a Phillies team that lost 99 games a year ago and was thought in some quarters to be more depleted than even the Braves is a whole different kind of kick in the chops.
The Phillies are all about their young arms in the rotation (sound familiar?). Young power pitchers like Vince Velasquez (23) and Aaron Nola (22) are leading the way, along with a bullpen that has been at least reliable.
What does all this mean for the Braves?
Well, it certainly puts even more of a premium on developing those young and lively arms in the minors and advancing them to the Major League club as quickly as feasible. I’m all for a 25-and-under rotation. I’ll take an entire pitching staff with training wheels at this point.
Plus, while surely the universe will stabilize and the Phillies will fall back to a more expected level, they now at least lessen all the excuses that the Braves could employ, should they ever choose to. All it takes is one glance across the field this week to make them feel even worse about where they stand and to look even more critically beyond their humble pedigree and at themselves.