How I learned to stop worrying and love the wild card

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The AJC’s Mark Bradley has a column up today with the headline: “With Lee again a Phil, are the Braves playing for the wild card?”

My answer — which I’ve been giving anyone who will listen since midnight Monday — is “Yes. Yes they are.”  Even if you set aside their top two pitchers who will often face opposing aces, they will have a supreme advantage in 60+ starts in which their starters face vastly inferior three and four starters from the opposition.  That’s a recipe for a double-digit division lead, possibly before the All-Star break.

For that reason, I don’t plan on considering Philadelphia as the Braves’ primary competition next year. I’m going to consider the competition to be the Reds, Cardinals, Giants, Dodgers, Cubs, Padres and whoever else might muster enough for a run at the wild card. It’ll make my summer much easier, that’s for sure.

And it’s not like such a thing is defeatism. Why not? Because in 1997, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2007, the NL pennant winner was the wild card team. And in 2006 the pennant winner was the weakest of any of the NL playoff representatives during the regular season. And last year’s pennant winner — the Giants — mowed down the Phillies’ already-formidable rotation.

Lament the near impossible task of winning the NL East next year, Braves fans (and Marlins, Mets and Nationals fans), but don’t worry too much if the wild card represents the best shot at your team making the playoffs. NL wild card teams do quite well with that, thank you very much.

Astros’ bullpen throws combined one-hitter for MLB-best 30th win

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The Astros’ bullpen did yeoman’s work in place of the injured Dallas Keuchel on Monday against the Tigers. Keuchel is temporarily sidelined with a pinched nerve in his neck.

Brad Peacock made the spot start, limiting the Tigers to one hit and two walks with eight strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings. Chris Devenski took over with one out in the fifth, finishing out that inning as well as the sixth and seventh, facing the minimum. Will Harris pitched a perfect eighth and Ken Giles closed out the 1-0 victory in the ninth. Devenski, Harris, and Giles each had two strikeouts.

The Astros scored their only run in the bottom of the first inning as George Springer drew a leadoff walk, then scored on Jose Altuve‘s one-out double. Tigers starter Brad Fulmer pitched well enough to win on most days, giving up the lone run in seven frames.

After Monday’s win, the Astros became the first team to reach 30 wins, sitting on a 30-15 record. With a +55 run differential, even their expected record matches up with their actual record.

Brandon Phillips hit his 200th career home run

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Braves second baseman Brandon Phillips became the 337th player in baseball history to hit 200 career home runs, driving a solo home run to left-center field during Monday night’s home game against the Pirates. Phillips is the 14th second baseman (who played a min. of 75 percent of his career games at the position) to rack up at least 200 career home runs.

Phillips, 35, entered Monday’s action batting .290/.345/.405 with two home runs and 12 RBI in 142 plate appearances. If he’s anything, he’s consistent, as he finished with an adjusted OPS between 90-99 (100 is average) every year between 2012-16 and it was sitting at 97 coming into Monday.