Commentary

Utley injury puts Braves in control

With uncertainty in the Philly lineup, Atlanta is set up to rule the NL East

Updated: April 20, 2011, 1:55 PM ET
By Matt Meyers | ESPN Insider
Jason HeywardMarc Serota/Getty ImagesThe Braves have a talented young core of players headlined by Jason Heyward.

In the minds of many, the NL East was clinched on Dec. 15, 2010. That was the day that the Philadelphia Phillies signed Cliff Lee, giving them arguably the best starting rotation in baseball history. Almost immediately, most assumed the Phils would cruise to their fifth straight NL East title.

But, as they say, that's why you don't play the games on paper.

A lot has changed since that fateful December day, and given the recent injuries suffered by certain key Phillies -- not to mention some time to regain our perspective -- things aren't looking quite as sunny in Philadelphia. In fact, with the uncertainty surrounding Chase Utley's knee tendinitis, not to mention the Phils' right-field situation in light of Jayson Werth's departure and Domonic Brown's broken hand, it's unclear whether the Phillies are even the NL East favorites anymore. That's troubling news for a team that's built to win now, and if you compare the Phillies' roster to that of the Atlanta Braves, it appears Atlanta is poised to regain its chokehold on the division it dominated for much of the past two decades.