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Series Previews

Now or never: Revitalized Phillies look to cut into Braves division lead

Odubel Herrera rounding the bases is a sight the Phils hope to see against Atlanta (Ian D’Andrea)

After taking two of three from the New York Mets, the Philadelphia Phillies get set to play the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park in what is no doubt the biggest series of their season. Sitting five-and-a-half games back of Atlanta in the National League East, the Phillies will have four chances to either make up ground, or be completely wiped from the playoff picture.

Cue the Rocky theme.

Although the Braves main strength is their offense – which includes rookie left fielder Ronald Acuna and All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman – they boast a solid, if unspectacular rotation that is led by breakout pitcher Mike Foltynewicz. The Phillies starters for the series include Aaron Nola, who is coming off another fine start, and Jake Arrieta. For Arrieta, now is the time to prove he is worth the three-year/$75 million deal he signed in the offseason. Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta will start games one and two, respectively.

The Phillies have a record of 5-7 against the Braves, although the two teams haven’t played each other since May. Including this series, the Phillies will have seven games against the Braves before the season closes. They need to make each one count.

Game 1:
Thursday, Sept. 20th, 7:35 P.M.
Velasquez (9-11, 4.50 ERA, 3.66 FIP) vs. Kevin Gausman (10-10, 3.92 ERA, 4.37 FIP)
TV: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: SportsRadio 94 WIP

Game 2:
Friday, Sept. 21st, 7:35 P.M.
Pivetta (7-13, 4.67 ERA, 3.75 FIP) vs. Julio Teheran (9-8, 3.97 ERA, 4.81 FIP)
TV: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: SportsRadio 94 WIP

Game 3:
Saturday, Sept. 22nd, 1:35 P.M.
Arrieta (10-9, 3.77 ERA, 4.13 FIP) vs. Sean Newcomb (12-9, 4.04 ERA, 4.18 FIP)
Radio: SportsRadio 94 WIP

Game 4:
Sunday, Sept. 23rd, 1:35 P.M.
Nola (16-5, 2.44 ERA, 2.97 FIP) vs. Mike Foltynewicz (11-10, 2.90 ERA, 3.47 FIP)
TV: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: 1210 WPHT

Series Notes:

  1. Looking at the injury front, Asdrubal Cabrera left Monday’s game with an apparent strain, and hasn’t started since. With Maikel Franco expected to return in a couple of days, Carlos Santana and J.P. Crawford will likely hold down the hot corner.
  2. In three games this season against the Braves, Aaron Nola is 1-1 with a 2.95 ERA in 18.1 innings pitched with nine strikeouts. Nola is set to face Atlanta twice in the seven remaining games the Phillies have against them.
  3. Three of Odubel Herrera’s 22 home runs this year have come versus the Braves. Despite a disappointing season from El Torito, Herrera is still batting .273 with six RBIs in 12 games against Atlanta.
  4. A potential flaw for the Braves that the Phillies could take advantage of is their bullpen, which has a 5.67 ERA in the month of September.
  5. While the Braves appear in a good spot to make a postseason appearance, you can never count your chickens before they hatch. Atlanta should know this better than anyone, considering they had an eight-and-a-half game lead for the Wild Card in early September of 2011. They spiraled downwards, topping it off by losing the final game of the season to the Phillies, allowing the St. Louis Cardinals to grab the Wild Card. 

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