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Phillies sweep Braves, Roy Oswalt improving, and Chase Utley’s 'possible' concussion

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Despite the Phillies having a 7 and ½ game lead over the Braves going into their three-game set this week, this was still a highly anticipated series. And despite the Phillies’ overall weak showing last weekend in Miami, the team once again proved why they are the best team in baseball, and why should never be counted out.

When all was said and done, Atlanta walked out of Philly with their heads between their tails. The Phillies swept them for the first time this season, and did so in several ways.Raul Ibanez was in the middle of everything in the Braves series. Photo: www.thearchnemesis.com

1. Their bats: Nobody is going to mistake this 2011 Phils squad for the bashers of old, but the Phightins can still rake when called upon and they did so with a 9-0 thrashing in the first game.

Despite the Phillies’ awful situational hitting on Sunday, Hunter Pence set the tone for what would be many clutch hits Monday when his two-run single gave the Phillies a 2-0 lead, a lead that they would only relinquish once the entire series.

Raul Ibanez, who seems to have benefitted from ‘platooning’ with John Mayberry Jr. (who has recently made some news of his own off the field), was in the middle of everything during the two games he played this series. Ibanez smacked a huge RBI double in the sixth inning of the second game, hit his 250th career home run to give the Phils a 1-0 lead in the third game, and later scored the game-winning run on Ross Gload’s game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the ninth to cap off the sweep. Gload, who has struggled mightily with a bad hip, still leads the majors in pinch hits, and delivered with his biggest knock of the year.

2. Guile: Braves starter Tim Hudson leads the majors in shutdown inning percentage, but when the Braves evened the score at 2-2 on Tuesday night, the Phils came back quickly. When Ryan Howard, who apparently has hard-core bursitis, makes a mad dash for home plate on Hudson’s wild pitch in the sixth inning, you know the Phillies aren’t letting up on the gas pedal for anyone until it's time to goh ome for the off-season. And after the Braves pulled to 4-3 in the next inning, the Phightins struck back once again on the strong Atlanta bullpen.  

To top things off, the Phillies came back to tie the score at 2-2 in the third game when Placido Polanco (sports hernia and all) tied the game with a single off Jonny Venters, who hadn’t given up a run in 23 innings. NOBODY scores on Atlanta’s pen. That speaks volumes for this Phillies team.The Phillies can ill afford to lose Roy Oswalt for an extended perios of time. Photo: www.upi.com

3. Their arms:  To say Cliff Lee was stellar in the first game is an understatement. Lee is slowly but surely making his case for the NL Cy Youg Award. Vance Worley was a little rocky on Tuesday, but kept the Phils in the game long enough to come away with the win- the Phillies’ 14th consecutive win in which Worley has started.

If Lee had the strongest outing, the most encouraging performance had to be Roy Oswalt’s  on Wednesday night. Having struggled for most of the season and Worley breathing down his neck for the fourth starters spot come playoff time, Oswalt no-hit the Braves for five innings. He did walk four, but his velocity was as high as 94 MPH on the gun.

Despite a hiccup the other week against the Marlins, Oswalt’s last two outings have been strong. His career winning percentage in September is first among active pitchers, so if he remains healthy this should only continue. That’s great news for the Phillies, and flat out scary for anyone who plays them.

Chase Utley:  Speaking of flat-out scary, you know Utley is of the toughest players in the game. He plays in pain with the best of them, but it’s one thing to play in pain and it’s another to get your bell rung in the sixth inning by a 90 mile-per-hour ish fastball and not even feel it. Utley was removed for precautionary measures and the Phillies aren’t taking any chances. Rumor has it that Utley will miss a few games.  A frustrating season for Utley just got a little more discouraging. Lets just hope it’s a few games and only a few games. The Phillies deactivated Jimmy Rollins from he disabled list and they really didn’t want to do that because he’s not 100% percent ready.

Bottom Line: There were many encouraging signs during this series against the Braves. The Phillies did indeed play like potential champions. However, it’s a whole new ball game come playoff time, and despite coming back from a defecit to score on their bullpen, playing against Atlanta in tight games is like playing with fire. It’s best to get a lead and never look back on these guys. A possible post season match-up could be very hairy if they don’t.

As far as Utley goes, it’s about time a pitcher on this Phillies team took some initiative and retaliated against these teams who are plunking their hitters. here was no retaliation against the Giants for beaning Shane Victorino in San Francisco, so there had better be something against Atlanta during that final weekend set. Whether Eric O’Flaherty meant to hit Utley or not, he was hit nonetheless. This is getting ridiculous.

The “test” continues for the Phils as they take on the Brewers at Miller Park for a four-game series. Without Utley for the first few games and Rollins doubtful unless he’s really needed, the Phils aren’t at full strength. After what we’ve seen from this team all year however, that won’t stop them in the least.

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Joe Vallee is a lifelong Phillies fan and former Phillies batboy. Joe has claimed to have seen about 98% of every Phillies game since the early 1980's.

Contact Joe at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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