Phils fall to Braves, prep for Reds in NLDS
Werth, Mayberry go deep; Hamels, Oswalt tune up for NLDS
ATLANTA -- The Phillies knew the Braves had everything to play for Sunday at Turner Field, but they had their own plans.
They wanted to give Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt a little work before they host the Reds in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Wednesday at 5:07 p.m. ET on TBS. They wanted to give Jimmy Rollins, starting in his fifth game after missing most of September with a strained right hamstring, a few more at-bats. They wanted to give final tune ups to just about everybody.
They mostly wanted to stay healthy.
The Phils, who finished the season with the best record in baseball (97-65) for the first time in franchise history, accomplished most of those things in an 8-7 loss.
But there were tenuous moments.
Catcher Carlos Ruiz left the game before the bottom of the third inning after Braves right-hander Tim Hudson hit him with a pitch on his left elbow. Ruiz said X-rays were negative, although he will see team doctors Monday in Philadelphia.
"I hope so, yeah," said Ruiz, if he thinks he will be OK to play Wednesday. "We'll see [Monday] when I wake up, but right now it's sore."
Left-hander J.C. Romero left the game in the sixth inning with what the team called "left lower back soreness." Romero said he should be OK.
"I had a little pain going down my leg, but I stopped it before it got worse," he said. "I should be all right. I was just being smart. I didn't want my sciatic nerve to get bad. I'll go home and just do the exercises I need to do. I'll be fine."
Ruiz's and Romero's health are important for obvious reasons. Ruiz had a career year, hitting .302 with eight home runs 53 RBIs, a .400 on-base percentage and a .447 slugging percentage. The team's pitchers love throwing to him. His 3.31 catcher's ERA ranked fourth in baseball. Romero is the only veteran left-hander in the bullpen. If he could not pitch, the Phillies likely only would have lefty Antonio Bastardo in the 'pen.
But other than Ruiz and Romero, everything went relatively smoothly -- smoothly because they got 24 players some work in a game that meant nothing.
Rollins went 1-for-4 on Sunday. He hit .222 (4 for 18) with one double, one home run and four RBIs since his return last week in Washington.
"I'll be ready," Rollins said about the NLDS.
Does he feel good?
"I'll be ready," he repeated.
And where will he hit in the lineup?
"Wherever [manager] Charlie [Manuel] wants me to," he said.
Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino hit .309 with four doubles, one triple, two home runs, 10 RBIs, 15 runs scored and seven stolen bases in 19 games as the team's leadoff hitter last month. Manuel said after the game Rollins probably will not be able to steal any bases, so he might learn toward hitting Rollins lower in the lineup.
Hamels started, but pitched just two scoreless innings in a tune-up before he pitches in Game 3 next Sunday.
"I'm on the Sunday rotation," he joked.
Right-handers Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton each pitched one inning in relief. Danys Baez, Mike Zagurski, Chad Durbin, Brad Lidge and Romero also pitched.
Baez allowed four runs in two-thirds of an inning in the fourth as the Braves were on their way to an 8-2 lead. The Phillies scored twice in the seventh inning and three times in the eighth inning to make it a one-run game, but they couldn't tie the game in the ninth.
The Phils were not heartbroken about it. They were there Sunday to get ready for the playoffs, and they almost won anyway. They went 23-7 (.767) from Sept. 1 through the end of the season. That is the 10th best record in baseball from Sept. 1 through the end of the regular season since 1950.
The Phillies are playing well.
They played well even when they had no need to play well this weekend.
"The way we approached this series was pretty good," Romero said. "We got after it. We didn't take anybody lightly. We feel very comfortable with the way we're playing right now, and now it's time to go."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.