Bobby Cox is expected to manage the last of his 4,508 major league games Sunday. The Atlanta Braves are hoping to extend his career beyond the 3,860 he will have spent leading their team.
In what they hope is only their vaunted manager’s regular season finale, the Braves will try to clinch a wild-card berth while defeating the Philadelphia Phillies at Turner Field.
Cox won’t add to his 14 division titles with Atlanta this year but the fourth winningest manager in baseball history (2,503 victories) has a chance to make the playoffs for the 16th time in his 28-plus seasons.
Tied for the wild-card lead with San Diego, Atlanta (90-71) needs a win over the Phillies (97-64) and a Padres loss in San Francisco later in the day to secure that berth.
Should the Braves and Padres remain tied after Sunday, the teams would meet at Turner Field on Monday night to see who advances. A Padres win and a Braves victory would cause a three-way logjam and the need for a pair of playoff games.
San Diego and San Francisco would play for the NL West title on Monday night at Petco Park, then the loser would head to Turner Field for a game to determine the wild-card winner the next evening.
A loss and a Padres win would end the Braves’ hopes to give Cox a chance for his second World Series title. The veteran manager won his only championship in 1995 and hasn’t claimed an NL pennant since getting swept in the World Series by the Yankees in 1999.
Atlanta probably didn’t think it would need any of those scenarios after holding a two-game lead over the Padres with three games to go. The Braves, though, have been outscored 18-5 in the two games against the Phillies, including a 7-0 defeat Saturday.
“We’ve got to suck it up and win a game,” Cox said. “We have to, tomorrow. We need to win and we’ve got the right guy going and we need to bust open with the bats a little bit.”
While his team tries to find its hitting stroke, Braves ace Tim Hudson(notes) (16-9, 2.76 ERA) will attempt to quiet the Phillies’ bats. The NL East champions, however, don’t plan on conceding this game despite already wrapping up home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
After giving up a season high-tying six runs in Washington on Sept. 24, Hudson bounced back to allow one run over six innings Tuesday against Florida.
He did not get a decision in a 3-2 victory but perhaps showed that he’s gotten past a 1-4 stretch that included a 6.10 ERA. Hudson was 6-0 with a 1.43 ERA in his previous eight starts and ended a five-game slide to the Phillies on June 1 by allowing two runs over six innings of a 7-3 home win.
His counterpart in Sunday’s game, Cole Hamels(notes) (12-11, 3.09), gave up a three-run homer to Troy Glaus(notes) in that loss and failed to pitch a full inning for the first time when he didn’t return following a rain delay.
Hamels is 0-2 with a 10.13 ERA in his last three starts in Atlanta but is expected to pitch just two innings Sunday as he prepares for the postseason.
The left-hander will try to improve on last week’s 7-3 loss to the Mets in which he gave up five runs and nine hits over four innings. Before that game, he had won five consecutive starts while posting a 0.49 ERA.
In one of those outings, he gave up one run over eight innings in a 3-1 victory over Atlanta. He’s 9-5 in his career against the Braves, tied for his most wins versus any opponent.