Strong starting pitching has been a fixture of the Braves’ 14 straight division titles, but Atlanta’s rotation had an ERA of 10.09 in the first seven games this season, giving up 34 earned runs in 30 1-3 innings.
Right-hander John Thomson gave Atlanta a much-needed strong start Monday, taking the ball in place of the injured Horacio Ramirez and allowing one unearned run in five innings as the Braves defeated the Phillies 5-3 to avoid a third straight loss.
“That’s what we’re used to around here,” Braves second baseman Marcus Giles said of the effort of Thomson, who also went 2-for-2 with a two-run double. “That’s what we’re going to get. We have too many good starters to let that happen.”
The Braves (4-4) will look for a second straight strong performance from one of those starters when Sosa makes his second start of the season. The right-hander struggled in his first outing, allowing six runs in 2 1-3 innings of a 6-4 loss to San Francisco on Thursday.
Sosa will look to bounce back against the Phillies, against whom he went 2-0 with a 2.82 ERA in six games, including three starts, in 2005.
The Braves played without Chipper Jones on Monday after putting the third baseman on the 15-day disabled list because of a sprained right knee and ankle, although the injury wasn’t as severe as the Braves feared. Jones was injured Sunday when he charged in on Mike Matheny’s slow roller in the eighth inning.
Wilson Betemit ably replaced Jones on Monday, going 2-for-4 with a run and an eighth-inning RBI single for the Braves. Closer Chris Reitsma took over in the ninth, one day after squandering the lead against the Giants with two last-inning runs. He was booed when he entered the game, but retired the side in order for his third save in four chances.
While the Braves are looking for consistency from their starting pitchers, the Phillies will be trying to avoid their first 1-7 start since 1987. Philadelphia finished second in the NL East last season, just two games behind the Braves.
“We have all the ingredients,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “We’re doing everything we’re supposed to do. At the same time, we’re not playing as good as we can play.”
Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins went 3-for-4 with a walk Monday and has hit safely in 42 of 43 games. Rollins’ new hitting streak reached four after having his 38-game streak snapped last week, but he’s not getting much help from his teammates.
“We’re waiting on the big hit,” Rollins said. “It just hasn’t come. It’s single, single.”
The Phillies are batting .160 with runners in scoring position.
“You’re not always going to get out of the gate going good,” center fielder Aaron Rowand said. “The best thing you can do is look forward to the next day. If you dwell on this and let it beat you up, you’re going to kill yourself.”
Right-hander Cory Lidle will make his second start after allowing four runs in five innings of a 4-2 loss to St. Louis on Thursday. Lidle is 4-1 with a 4.55 ERA in eight games, including five starts, against the Braves.
The series concludes Thursday.