This is not where the Atlanta Braves wanted to be.
Once proud owners of a 10 1/2-game lead in the National League wild card standings, the Braves are mired in a four-game losing streak, but can still clinch a playoff spot tonight in the finale of a three-game series versus the rival Philadelphia Phillies at Turner Field.
The Braves are now tied with St. Louis for the final postseason berth in the National League and can wrap up the wild card with a win and a Cardinals loss. If both teams are tied at the end of the day, St. Louis will host Atlanta for a one-game playoff Thursday evening at Busch Stadium.
In Tuesday's 7-1 loss to the Phillies in the second portion of this set, Braves starter Derek Lowe was ripped for five runs and six hits in four innings to suffer the loss. Martin Prado homered in the bottom of the ninth and Brian McCann finished with two hits for Atlanta, which has lost seven of its last nine contests. Atlanta has a 9-17 mark in September.
"It's just been a long year, my worst year by far. But with that being said, this isn't about me, it's about our team. We still have a chance," Lowe said.
It will be up to Tim Hudson to pitch the Braves into the win column when he takes the mound Wednesday. Hudson has won two straight starts and survived a 7-4 win at Washington the last time out on Friday, when he was reached for three runs and nine hits over 5 2/3 innings. He improved to 16-10 in 32 starts to go along with a 3.23 earned run average.
Hudson has pitched well at home this season, going 10-4 in 18 appearances, and is 7-8 in 21 career starts against the Phillies. The righty lost at Philadelphia on Sept. 6 and gave up four runs in six innings of a 6-3 defeat.
Philadelphia has picked up its act with three straight wins since a season- worst eight-game losing streak. Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Hunter Pence all homered last night for the five-time NL East champions, while starter Roy Oswalt hurled six scoreless innings for the win.
"It's always nice to put some runs on the board, especially early. Lately our pitchers have been having to go eight innings just to see one run get on the board," Rollins said.
The Phillies matched a club record with 101 wins, set a franchise mark with 49 road victories and saw manager Charlie Manuel match Gene Mauch for first place on the club's all-time wins list. The Phils won 101 games in 1976 and '77 and had 48 road wins in 1976 and 2009, while Manuel and Mauch each have 645 wins.
Joe Blanton gets the nod for the Phillies and will make his second straight start and fifth appearance since missing almost four months with shoulder inflammation. Blanton threw two scoreless innings in a 6-3 loss against the New York Mets on Saturday and is 1-2 with a 5.03 ERA in 10 games (7 starts).
Blanton lost to the Braves back on May 14 and is 1-4 with a 5.47 ERA in 10 career games, nine of which have been starts, against them.
Philadelphia leads the season series with Atlanta by an 11-6 count and has won the last six meetings between the two clubs.