The Braves took two out of three games from the Phillies this past weekend down in Atlanta. They also won the series before that on the Fightins' turf at Citizens Bank Park. The Braves were the trendy pick by many national analysts to beat the Phillies for the NL East crown this season, and it's not without merit. General Manager Frank Wren has put together a very nice ball club from top to bottom: a solid offense, reliable rotation, and one of the best bullpens in the league. They're proving a worthy adversary in the first half of the 2011 campaign.
Prior to Sunday's rubber match in Atlanta, Braves' skipper Fredi Gonzalez got extremely candid with reporters when talking about how the two clubs match up, and even went so far as to go down the lineup position by position and say which Phillies he'd rather have over his own guys.
From the AJC:
“I think it’s pretty equal,” he began. “I think it comes down to the
pitching, and [particularly] the bullpens. You go position by position …
well, let’s do it.”
Indeed, let’s do it.
“First base, Howard and Freeman, you’d take Howard,” Gonzalez said.
“[Second base] you’ve got Uggla and, who’ve they got now, Petey Orr [and
others], so you take Uggla. Shortstop’s a tough one, I take Gonzo just
because of the defense. Polanco-Chipper [at third base]. That’s a good
one. That’s a toss-up there. I’m taking Chipper.
“Left field is Ibanez, and we have Prado; I’m taking Prado. Center
field is McLouth and Victorino. Victorino. Right field is Heyward and
Francisco or Mayberry. Heyward.”
Now, Fredi didn't really go out on a limb with any of these, but he could have gone with his own guy McLouth in center but didn't.
Assuming we're not including Chase Utley, I'd agree with Uggla over Valdez/Orr, but I'm not taking Gonzo over J-Roll or the aging Chipper over Polanco. Rollins may be streaky at the dish, but his defense has never wavered. Current-day Chipper over Polly just seems way too homerish to me.
The outfield seems fairly straightforward. Prado over Ibanez, Vic over McLouth, and Heyward over Benny.
I guess Fredi didn't touch on the catcher matchup, which is pretty tough. McCann is having a much better season than Ruiz, but it'd be tough for Phillies fans to take anyone over Chooch.
Would you take any of the Braves position players over the current Phillies starters?