Friday was the start of an important 10-game stretch for the Philadelphia Phillies. With the fourth-oldest roster in the majors, and a so-so first-half of the season at best, decision-makers have to evaluate the Phillies postseason chances before making any decisions ahead of the July 31 trade deadline.
Are they buyers or sellers?
With just over week before the All-Star break, this stretch of games will go a long way toward answering that question.
Behind the strong arm of Cliff Lee -- one of the best starting pitchers in the National League -- the Phillies got off on the right foot with a 5-4 victory over the Braves at Citizens Bank Park.
Here are Three Cuts from the Braves' frustrating loss:
1. Cliff Lee rarely needs much help, but he got some anyway.
Lee is now 8-0 in his last 12 starts, his first 8-0 stretch since Aug. 2009. But he has had his way with the Braves for quite some time. After starting out 1-3 against Atlanta with a 6.15 ERA, Lee has now gone 5-1 in his last seven starts.
Even though the Braves lost, they did connect against Lee better on Friday than in recent outings. Four runs on nine hits is a positive sign. In Lees previous six starts against the Braves, he compiled a 0.78 ERA, and the only other time he had faced them this year, back on April 4, he allowed only two hits and no runs in eight innings of work.
But the Braves didnt help their own cause. In the bottom of the first inning with runners on first and second and one out, Ryan Howard hit a sharp ground ball to first baseman Freddie Freeman for what looked like a routine double play. But Freeman made a throwing error to second, sailing the ball into center field and allowing a run to score.
Then in the bottom of the second, Phillies catcher Humberto Quintero was awarded a controversial home run after a fly ball to right appeared to be deflected off a fan, then off the screen below the home run railing and onto Jason Heywards head. The umpire crew reviewed the video, but upheld the home run call, scoring Quintero and Ben Revere.
Quintero, who only had five RBI all season prior to Friday night, had three against the Braves. His third came in the sixth when he hit a hard double to right field and scored Delmon Young from first. But, again, the play was not without controversy. After a great throw by Heyward, catcher Brian McCann appeared to tag Quintero in plenty of time, but the runner kicked the ball free from McCanns glove and was safe at home to put the Phillies up 5-0.
The Braves did all their damage in the seventh inning. They sent up nine batters, scored four runs and did something no team had done to Lee in seven previous starts: they sent him to the showers before the end of the seventh.
Still, one error, one questionable homer, and one bad break at the plate and this one could have been a lot different.
2. The Braves clearly miss Evan Gattis.
Since placing Gattis on the disabled list with an oblique strain on June 15, it is hard to quantify how much the Braves have missed the slugger. They miss his energy, his story, his charisma and confidence in the clubhouse, the dugout and in the batters box.
And they miss his versatility, his willingness to play anywhere, anytime and under any circumstances.
In the top of the third inning, catcher Gerald Laird took a called strike three and went toe-to-toe with plate umpire Angel Hernandez, who already had a couple of questionable calls under his belt after only two innings. Laird was thrown out of the game, along with Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who appeared to come out to mitigate the damage, but engaged Hernandez as well.
It was the second time this season that Gonzalez has been ejected, the first coming at home against the Washington Nationals on June 1 for arguing balls and strikes from the dugout. Friday was Lairds first ejection.
That was when Gattis would have been invaluable. McCann was the only catcher in the dugout after Lairds ejection. Not only were the Braves limited defensively from that point forward, they might have struggled to make creative offensive moves if they had needed pinch-hitters or runners later in the game.
Gattis has quickly become a beloved figure among Braves fans and respected teammate in the clubhouse. Every day he remains on the DL, the organization misses him more and more.
3. In a pinch, Joey Terdoslavich gets his first career hit.
Terdoslavich got his first career hit in his second at-bat, this time as a pinch-hitter with two outs in the ninth and the Braves trailing by only one run.
He looked supremely confident swinging at the first pitch he saw -- a slider from closer Jonathan Papelbon -- and hitting a bullet into right field. The hit did not affect the outcome of the game, but it sent a good message to Braves fans: Terdoslovich could be on the roster for some time.
Terdoslavich, who was called up on the Fourth of July, was hitting .318 with 18 homers and 58 RBIs at Gwinnett and has been named to the Futures and Triple-A All-Star games. A former third baseman, Terdoslavich has played the corner outfield spots this year.