The Philadelphia Phillies used to dominate the Atlanta Braves in years past. In fact, it was one of the many things Phillies fans like myself took for granted until this season. However, Atlanta had struck back with a 9-3 record against Philadelphia going into this weekend - yet that was before the games really started to count.
Now that it is the final month of the season, perhaps the pressure and memories of last September are weighing down on the Braves. That might explain why they have dominated the Phillies all year, yet may get swept by them in a three-game set at home anyway.
The Phillies got closer to that surprising result with a 5-1 win over the Braves on Sept. 1. It resembled something out of the old days of this rivalry - especially with Cliff Lee actually getting his second straight win. With seven innings of five-hit ball, perhaps Lee has finally stopped waiting around to be his old self again.
In contrast, a much more consistent ace for the Braves struggled all day, as Tim Hudson was touched for five runs and nine hits in just five-plus innings. The last straw came when he walked Lee, of all people, with the bases loaded and no one out in the sixth inning. In fact, the Phillies just needed three singles, that walk and a fielder's choice to turn a 3-0 lead into 5-0 and give Lee all the breathing room he needed.
Philadelphia has to wonder why it didn't have this luck much earlier, when beating Atlanta would have helped a lot more. If not for that 3-9 record against the Braves before this weekend, the Phillies could have really made a wild card run possible by now. As for Atlanta, it may wind up being really lucky that it built up all those wins over Philadelphia early.
However, the Braves could use a few extra victories in case it falls into another wild card dogfight. But if they can't get them against a Phillies team at home with nothing to play for, it won't help hold back the memories of last September.
Perhaps Atlanta will be more comfortable by the time it visits Philadelphia from Sept. 21-23. It may even turn the tide in this series's finale on Sept. 2, even with Cole Hamels pitching for the Phillies. Either way, the Braves can't let the Phillies remember how to knock them around again - or else other unpleasant results from 2011 may repeat themselves in Atlanta this September too.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
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