Braves Lose To Phillies, But Still Cling To NL Wild Card Lead Over Cardinals

Hunter Pence of the Philadelphia Phillies rounds the bases after hitting a home run against Arodys Vizcaino of the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

The Atlanta Braves are not your ordinary franchise headed to the postseason.

I'm a Cubs fan. If my team were about to clinch a playoff spot, Cubs fans would be selling their firstborns for a chance at playoff tickets.

The Braves? They ran a commercial between innings of their SportSouth telecast of their 7-1 loss to the Phillies, advertising playoff tickets. Yes, that's right, the Braves have not sold out their division series games and they are using time they could have otherwise sold to advertisers to try to get their fans to buy them.

If they keep playing as they did Tuesday night, they might not have to bother. The Phillies started with longballs early; Chase Utley hit a two-out first-inning home run off Derek Lowe; Hunter Pence added a two-run blast off Arodys Vizcaino in the fifth, and Jimmy Rollins ended the Philadelphia homer barrage with a solo shot off Julio Teheran in the seventh. (The Phillies tied a franchise record with this win, their 101st of the season.)

Teheran is the Braves' -- and maybe the majors' -- top pitching prospect, and it shows you how the Braves are desperate to save their other relief pitchers for a possible wild-card clinching game Wednesday night in Atlanta.

Clinching game? But the Braves just lost and looked really bad doing it, managing just three hits off Roy Oswalt and two Philadelphia relievers until Martin Prado prevented the embarrassment of a shutout by leading off the ninth inning with a home run off Kyle Kendrick. The Braves are averaging a weak 3.2 runs per game in a September where they have gone 9-17. That's right -- at this writing, the Astros are tied with the Cardinals 5-5; if they defeat St. Louis for the second straight night, the Braves' magic number to clinch the wild card would be reduced to one by the time Tuesday's action is over. If that happens, Atlanta can win the wild card by defeating the Phillies on Wednesday. If the Cardinals continue their comeback from a 5-0 deficit and win their game in Houston, the two teams would be tied going into Wednesday.

If that situation continues through tomorrow's action and the Cardinals and Braves wind up tied after 162 games, they will play a tiebreaker game on Thursday in St. Louis at 7 p.m. Central time.

One presumes the Cardinals won't have any trouble selling that game out.

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