Ok, so it looks like after outing my Braves, they decided to win the series with the Phillies. Perhaps to avoid more suspicion? They finished the year playing the Phillies better in Citizen’s Bank Park than they did in Atlanta. Go figure. They still only got three wins against them all year. So, Philly, congrats. You officially pwned us this year. And if my mention of controversy wasn’t enough, there was still more in Philadelphia before last night’s game got started. Only this one was real.
So after Atlanta’s visit, Philadelphia is 1.5 games in front of the Mets who are now tied with Milwaukee for the Wild Card spot. Looks like it may come to the last day of the year. Personally, I’m kind of hoping to see the Phillies and Mets in the NLCS together. I know, as a Braves fan it shouldn’t make any sense but it just seems like it would be so hate filled, so ugly, so… fun! One can dream.
So at this point, the title watch isn’t really a watch any more. It’s an inevitability. Chipper is sitting pretty at .365 and Albert Pujols is 15 points back at .350. There are three games left to play in Houston before a Brave-less October gets under way and no more Atlanta baseball (a tear). But there will be a postseason the likes of which you may never see again. That is to say, a post season touting no Yankees and WITH D-Rays, or Rays or whatever they want to be called. (Cassius Rays?) Some have suggested that perhaps Chipper was cheating a little at his title run by sitting out and making pinch hit AB’s this week. Going 1-1 every night sure does help the BA after all. That was before he Chipper blasted that mammoth three run homer last night.
Here’s the scoop, Chipper said he could play as long as he was to only hit lefty since his shoulder was too sore to hit right handed. So…Manuel brought in Eyre when Chipper was announced, hopefully to either switch him around or send him back to the dugout. At the time it was a 6-3 game which you could say, especially with Utley and Howard in the lineup, is not a safe lead. Not a bad move by Charlie, but instead Jones stays in and puts the game out of reach with a lunar rainmaker just on the right side of the left field foul pole. Cue Philly boos, Chipper rounds bases, and more than one Braves fan in Atlanta is left scratching his or her proverbial head.
How bad did that shoulder actually hurt?
Though you can argue that sitting most of the last week of the season gives you a slight advantage, I think the competitor in Chipper doesn’t look for easy ways to success and sitting out if he doesn’t have to just ain’t his style. Plus, a batting title is something that is won over a full season consisting of 162 games. It isn’t won in one week.
But was Chipper taking unnecessary rest to protect his title? He was certainly well enough to rake on some Phillies pitching when he came in for his pinch hit appearances. Granted Chipper went 0-3 in New York on the 19th and then didn’t start the last four games the Braves have played, not even getting a plate appearance on the 23rd.
I’m not Chipper’s trainer and I can’t say what his shoulder feels like. I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt because he’s a guy who’s played hurt in the past and has always thought of team first. After losing last year’s batting title by a slight bit to Holiday in ‘07, it makes you wonder.
The Braves finish the season in Houston with a weekend series. Chipper would have to have a pretty lousy weekend to lose this title race but let’s say this;
If he sits out this weekend, he’s really hurt. He could play and whiff at almost everything and still have a good shot at winning the title.
If he plays this weekend… well, let’s just say he’s healed up nicely and that shoulder surprisingly got better with that swing in Philadelphia.
In my opinion, a guy who hits .400 until June 18th can sit a few days if he wants to. I think due to the year he had despite injuries, he’s earned it. He hit some milestones this year too. 14 consecutive 20+ HR seasons to start his career, and slamming his 400th in the same season. A batting title would be icing on the cake.