Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  By CORY McCARTNEY  |  Last updated 9/6/13
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Mathematically, it was a loss that kept another National League East team in the race. But with the Braves' magic number at one when it comes to ending the Phillies' postseason hopes, Friday's 2-1 Philadelphia win only delayed the inevitable. Atlanta should, barring a collapse of catastrophic proportions, eliminate the Phillies and Mets -- magic number two to knock them out -- sometime over the next few series as the march toward the East crown and home-field advantage through the NLCS. It's not a loss, or a series, or a road trip that's going to induce any panic, especially given the performance that Philly got out of Cliff Lee. But the defeat at Citizens Bank Park Stadium did fall short of what it could have been: a statement game from a pitcher who looks to be the odds-on favorite to get the ball in Game 1 of the NLDS. Here are three observations from the Braves' loss: 1. Minor's best just wasn't enough Mike Minor entered Friday with 19, which is four behind the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, who has an NL-best 23, but he has yet to throw a shutout this season. He looked well on his way to doing just that, not allowing a hit until the fourth inning and he entered the seventh with a 1-0 lead. Cody Ashe would change everything with a two-run home run on a 90-mph fastball in the seventh, one mistake spoiling an outing in which Minor had worked seven innings, allowing four hits and striking out nine. From a big-picture standpoint, it was another strong road start out of a pitcher who has been at his best away from home -- he has a 2.42 ERA away from Turner Field compared to 3.63 at the Ted -- as he's allowed two or less runs in eight of his last nine outings. But Minor was largely upstaged by Lee, who continued one of the most incredible performances against a single opponent in the game's history. 2. Lee continues to dazzle against the Braves His previous two outings vs. Atlanta weren't sterling -- four runs allowed in 6 13 innings on July 5 (yet he got the win) and four runs, including three earned, in an Aug. 4 loss -- but don't let those ugly stat lines fool you. Cliff Lee has done to the Braves what no pitcher in major league history has done to an opponent. In his previous 13 starts against the Braves he 90 had strikeouts and sevens walks for a 12.86 KBB ratio. The's the best in history for a starter vs. a team with a minimum of 13 starts and Friday he only added to it. After giving up a solo home run to Andrelton Simmons to lead off the third inning, Lee would retire 18 of 19 and 13 straight in allowing two hits in eight innings. Oh, and he added 10 more strikeouts to go with zero walks, pushing that ridiculous KBB ratio to 14.28 vs. Atlanta. To put that level of dominance in perspective, here's a list of the rest of the top 10 KBB ratios against a single opponent in MLB history (with at least 13 starts): 1. Cliff Lee (vs. Braves): 14.28 2. Dan Haren (vs. Rays): 8.2 3. Kevin Brown (vs. Pirates): 7.55 4. Kevin Brown (vs. Nationals): 6.91 5. Randy Johnson (vs. Braves): 6.4 6. Brad Radke (vs. Rays): 5.91 7. Pedro Martinez (vs. Mariners): 5.48 8. Andy Sonnanstine (interleague): 5.3 9. Curt Schilling (vs. Orioles): 5.15 10. Carl Pavano (vs. Tigers): 5.1 3. History is still within the Braves' sights, but can they deliver? Despite losing two in a row against East opponents and three of the last five, the lead isn't going anywhere. In fact, Atlanta still has a very real chance at posting its highest division total since moving over from the West in 1995. The Braves are 40-23 against the East this season and have 13 more games remaining vs. division opponents, including two more in this series vs. the Phillies, four games in Miami, three against the Nationals in Atlanta and a four-game set vs. Philly at Turner Field on the last weekend of the regular season. Considering the way the Braves have had their way with the division overall, it makes a run at the 2004 team's 51-25 record in the East obtainable. But the rest of this series is key. If the Braves can't bounce back Saturday, they'd have to go 12-0 to make it happen and if they happen to get swept, the best they can do is tie the '04 squad. Neither proposition seems certain, but given the way the Braves have owned the East -- they have the best inter-division record in MLB by six games better over the Rays (34-29 vs. the AL East) and over the last two seasons, Atlanta has baseball's top record at 86-49 -- it's at chase worth watching.
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