2017 Series Preview

Series Preview: Philadelphia Phillies (40-69) at Atlanta Braves (51-59), Aug. 8-9

Atlanta_Braves-200x300.jpgSoooo, this is awkward. The last time the Phillies saw the Braves they had just finished them off in a four-game sweep at Citizens Bank Park, and now they’re stopping in at Sun Trust Park for a quick two game set. It certainly can’t be encouraging for the Braves to know that immediately following the four-game sweep the Phillies went on to lose five of their next six. For their part, the Braves have gone 3-3, losing two of three to the Dodgers and then taking two of three from the Marlins, both series taking place at home for the Braves.

What to expect

The Braves are 9-14 since the all-star break. They carry a -12 run differential through that span. Matt Kemp, who has been one of their best sluggers this season, is still on the DL from when he injured himself in Philly on their recent visit. Inciarte’s numbers are down, the new car smell has evaporated from Johan Camargo and even Freddie Freeman isn’t performing to his typical standard (although in Freeman’s case all that means is he looks like a very good player, not an amazing one).

The pitching has been consistent from first half to second, so their misfortunes seem to lie solely at the feet of the offense.

The Phillies are 11-11 since the break and actually carry a positive run differential at +3. They’re 4-5 in one-run games and while that’s better than their season record of 15-28, they still need to find a way to win more of those close games. Also since the break the Phillies have two players in the top 20 of OPS for all of baseball (minimum of 40 PA’s), Odubel Herrera and Cameron Rupp. Herrera is 12th with an 1.077 OPS and Rupp checks in at 16th with 1.063.

Pitching, except Aaron Nola, has been a bit of an issue for the Phils. The “big inning” has really hurt the young starters, and if they expect to win they’ll need to find a way to stop rally’s from getting out of control. They also need to rein in the first inning where, while they haven’t given up a ton of runs, they’re allowing lots of baserunners and the starters are throwing a ton of “stressful” pitches, which eventually effects how deep into the game they can go.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday, 7:35 p.m.: Zach Eflin (0-3, 6.13 ERA) vs. Julio Teheran (7-9, 5.10 ERA)

Teheran hasn’t been anywhere near as effective this season as the Braves would have liked him to be. He left his last start after 64 pitches due to thigh cramping, having given up three runs on four hits in his five innings against the Dodgers. He has been bad at home, very bad, and the Phillies should look to capitalize on that. He is 1-7 with an astonishing 6.91 ERA at Sun Trust and that lone win was all the way back in his first start of the season at home. The long ball has been his problem, and the Phils should show him no quarter when it comes to slugging.

Meanwhile, Eflin is back. In his first five starts this season he pitched 32 innings and only gave up 10 earned runs for an excellent ERA of 2.81. Then the wheels came off before an injury sidelined Eflin in June. He returned before the end of the month and was fine, sans one bad start against the … oh … Gwinnett Braves.

Wednesday, 7:35pm: Jerad Eickhoff (2-7, 4.56 ERA) vs. Sean Newcomb (1-6, 4.61 ERA)

Phillies hitters need to be patient when facing Newcomb because command issues have resulted in high walk totals. When he faced the Phillies two weeks ago he only gave up two hits but walked three in his five innings of work. That’s nothing compared to his seven-walks-i-4.2-innings performance in his last start against the Dodgers.

Eickhoff needs to continue working his way back to the pitcher he was before this year. Over his last six starts he has a spectacular 3.18 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 34 innings. He has also, however, walked 17 and given up 27 hits in that span, which leads to a 1.293 WHIP. More importantly, it’s costing him the ability to go deeper in games, and that’s a hurdle he’ll need to jump if he wants to be considered a valuable rotation piece.

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