Series Preview: Philadelphia Phillies (61-92) at Atlanta Braves (68-83), Sept. 22-24

braves2-300x113.gifWell, that was fun.

The Phillies just won three out of four games against baseball’s best to finish off the homestand at 7-3. It was probably the three best games this team has played in the last four seasons. They beat one of the best pitchers to play the game in Clayton Kershaw, held their own against Yu Darvish and quieted the Dodgers’ powerful lineup.

Even in the series finale where the Phils lost 5-4, there was still things to get excited about. Nick Williams hit a homer and Rhys Hoskins continued to dominate, becoming the fastest player in history to reach 45 RBIs. The only disappointment with the Phillies’ recent play is that there’s only nine games left to enjoy it.

Unless they completely collapse, the Phils will avoid their first 100-loss season since 1936. Even better, they have a shot at jumping the Mets in the standings. It all starts in Atlanta.

What to Expect

Even at their lowest point, the Phillies have absolutely dominated the Braves this season. In 16 games, the Phils are 12-4, including a four-game sweep back in July. The Braves just lost two of three from the Nationals and lost two of three from the Mets. Still, the Phillies need to keep their foot on the gas. The last thing we want is for them to get overconfident and reverse back to old habits.

Probable Starters

Friday, 7:35 p.m., Ben Lively (3-6, 3.94 ERA) vs. Sean Newcomb (3-8, 4.32 ERA)

This pair of rookies will look to sharpen their resume as the season comes to a close. Lively has shown he deserves a spot in this rotation next year, giving up more than three runs in just two of his 13 starts. Lively’s last outing was shortened to three innings due to the rain so he should be ready to go.

Newcomb has also impressed, most recently by striking out eight batters against the Mets last week. He’s faced the Phils twice already in his short career, giving up just three runs on seven hits over 11 innings. But that was before the alien that is Rhys Hoskins and the rest of the youngins’ showed up.

Saturday, 7:10 p.m., Henderson Alvarez (0-1, 7.20 ERA) vs. Julio Teheran (11-12, 4.52 ERA)

Alvarez’s outing against Oakland last week went as well as expected for someone who hasn’t pitched in more than two seasons. He allowed four runs on four hits, including two homers, over five innings while striking our four. With Teheran on the mound, the Phils should have a chance to win if Alvarez throws up a similar line.

In his first two starts against Philadelphia this season, Teheran gave up 13 runs over 9 2/3 innings. On August 30, he limited the Phils to just one run on five hits and struck out eight over 6 2/3 innings. He has a 6.23 ERA in 16 starts at home this season but has settled as of late.

Sunday, 1:35 p.m., Nick Pivetta (6-10, 6.57 ERA) vs. Luiz Gohara (1-2, 6.06 ERA)

Who knows which Nick Pivetta is going to show up on Sunday? Will it be the Pivetta who let up back-to-back homers to start the game against the Dodgers? Or the Pivetta who then went on to shutdown those same Dodgers, striking out eight over six innings? We shall see.

Despite a high ERA, the Braves’ rookie can be a tough test for the Phils’ young lineup. In his second of just three starts this season, he limited the potent Nationals’ lineup to just one run over six innings. He didn’t have the same success just a week later when he faced the Nats at home but still held them to four runs, striking out four. When he’s on, his slider can make batters look silly.

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