09/29/10 10:16 PM ET
Phils set to tune up, while Braves ready to battle
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
The lay of the land is all but settled for the Phillies, who won the East for the fourth straight season and will have home-field advantage as long as they last in the postseason. The Braves, meanwhile, are trying to hold off the Padres, and regardless of San Diego's success in San Francisco this weekend, Atlanta can qualify for the Wild Card by taking two of three from the Phillies. They can also clinch the berth with one win and a Padres loss, or two Padres losses.
That must be a relief for the Braves, who have played through the past few weeks under attack from all sides. Philadelphia leapfrogged Atlanta in the division, while San Francisco first hopped over Atlanta in the Wild Card and then San Diego in the West.
And then there is this scenario: If the Braves lose two of three and the Padres sweep, all three teams would be 91-71, setting up a pair of one-game playoffs. San Francisco would visit San Diego on Monday to decide the West, with the loser playing in Atlanta on Tuesday for the Wild Card.
Atlanta received bad news on Tuesday, though, when it became apparent that second baseman Martin Prado will be lost for the playoff push. Prado, who injured himself in Monday's game against Florida, was diagnosed with a torn left oblique muscle and a left hip pointer, ailments that will keep him out of the playoffs and end his breakout season ahead of schedule.
The Braves got good news on another front in the form of an incident-free bullpen session for Jair Jurrjens. Jurrjens has missed two weeks due to a knee injury and may be healthy enough to pitch in relief for Friday's opener. And even if he can't, the Braves have reason to believe that Jurrjens will be healed up enough to start if they make the playoffs.
Atlanta will have rookie Brandon Beachy on the mound Friday, which is why Jurrjens is listed as a possible contingency plan. Beachy, who relieved for most of the season in the Minor Leagues, has made just two starts since his promotion to the Majors. The right-hander, who struck out 148 batters with just 28 walks in the Minors, is 0-1 with a 2.89 ERA.
Philadelphia will counter with Kyle Kendrick, who was reinserted into the rotation once it became clear that the Phillies would clinch a playoff spot. Kendrick's reappearance in the rotation allowed the Phillies to space out the starts made by their veteran trio of Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt, keeping everyone as fresh as possible heading into the postseason.
Phillies: Howard, Polanco impress with consistency
First baseman Ryan Howard might be having a down season by his own gargantuan standards, but he's still established a well-deserved reputation for his consistency.
The Philadelphia slugger has drilled at least 30 home runs and driven home at least 100 runs in five straight seasons, the longest run of any player in the franchise's long and distinguished history.
Polanco has played 81 straight games without making an error at third base, and it appears that he'll fall just short of tying a league record for the most errorless games at third in one season. Colorado's Jeff Cirillo set the record (84) in 2001, but Polanco missed Wednesday's game -- and is questionable for Friday -- due to an elbow ailment.
Braves: Picking up slack for Prado
The Braves have said that Prado will need two months of rest to recover from his oblique ailment, but assuming a normal recovery, the infielder should be able to get all of his prep work done in time for Spring Training. Prado was named to his first All-Star Game this season, and as recently as Monday, he ranked second in the Major Leagues in multihit games (58).
Prado's replacement, rookie reserve Brooks Conrad, came through with a three-run homer in Wednesday's game to temporarily push the Braves two games ahead of the Padres. Now the Braves -- who have won at least 90 games in 15 of the 25 seasons under outgoing manager Bobby Cox -- need to find a way to get enhanced production out of the top of the lineup.
The Phillies are 21-6 in September, the best record of any big league team. ... Phils center fielder Shane Victorino will head home on the off-day to be present for the birth of his child. Victorino is uncertain as to whether he'll return in time to play in Friday's game. ... Hamels will likely start in the Braves series, but could be held to a few innings to protect his arm for the playoffs. ... Howard and Chase Utley got a day off in Wednesday's series finale, but will return to the lineup during the Atlanta series. ... Victorino and Jimmy Rollins were the two starters left in Wednesday's lineup, and they responded by going 0-for-8.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.