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Is there such a thing as a June must-win game? For Phillies, this may be it


Ugly. Pretty. Close. Blowout. It doesn’t matter how, or by how much – the Phillies need a win at SunTrust Park. (Thomson200)

To call the Philadelphia Phillies (38-31) loss on Friday night to the Atlanta Braves (41-29) simply frustrating would be an understatement. The host Braves rallied from a five-run deficit entering the bottom of the 7th and a two-run deficit entering the bottom of the 9th to a walkoff, 9-8 victory over the Phillies.

The victory was an eighth straight for the surging Braves. It was also their 11th win in their last 13 games, and raised their record to 23-9 since the club fell two games below the .500 mark back on May 9.

On that day, the Braves were four games behind the first-place Phillies in the standings. But now, after turning their season around and after sending the visiting Phillies to their own fourth loss in five games, the Braves have pushed to the top of the NL East Division and hold a 2.5 game lead.

The Phillies now hold just a two game lead on both the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamonbacks, and a 2.5 game lead on the Saint Louis Cardinals, for the final National League Wildcard playoff spot.

Perhaps more important than worrying about the postseason, however, is winning right now. The Phillies are reeling, and all of the Pollyanna positive-thought talk from manager Gabe Kapler or anyone else in the organization isn’t going to change that fact.

This 2019 Phillies ball club has reached gut-check point. The club has gone just 5-9 over the last two weeks since a rousing 11-4 win over Saint Louis at Citizens Bank Park on May 29 pushed them to 11 games over the .500 mark and a 3.5 game division lead.

Can the Phillies regain whatever mojo allowed them to repeatedly overcome their inconsistencies to produce victories over the season’s first two months? Or are the multi-talented defending NL East champion Braves simply too much for them? Are the Braves just a better team? Could this Saturday night game at SunTrust Park in Atlanta possibly be a must-win game already, as we reach the exact mid-point in June?

 

SATURDAY STARTING LINEUPS

(TO BE UPDATED WHEN ANNOUNCED)

PHILLIES

  1. Jean Segura SS
  2. Bryce Harper RF
  3. J.T. Realmuto C
  4. Rhys Hoskins 1B
  5. Jay Bruce LF
  6. Scott Kingery CF
  7. Sean Rodriguez 3B
  8. Cesar Hernandez 2B
  9. Aaron Nola P

 

BRAVES

  1. Ronald Acuna Jr.CF
  2. Dansby Swanson SS
  3. Freddie Freeman 1B
  4. Josh Donaldson 3B
  5. Nick Markakis RF
  6. Austin Riley LF
  7. Ozzie Albies 2B
  8. Tyler Flowers C
  9. Sean Newcomb P

 

SHIBE VINTAGE SPORTS STARTING PITCHING MATCHUP

PHILLIES – Aaron Nola: 6-1, 4.58 ERA, 1.487 WHIP, 80 hits over 76.2 IP across 14 starts with an 86/34 K:BB. Nola finished third in last year’s NL Cy Young Award voting but has produced a roller-coaster of results here in 2019. He is coming off a solid 6.2-inning outing against Cincinnati six days ago at home in a 4-3 Phillies loss. He beat the Braves on Opening Day at Citizens Bank Park, going 6 innings and allowing just one run on two hits with eight strikeouts.

BRAVES – Sean Newcomb: 1-0, 2.59 ERA, 1.340 WHIP, 32 hits over 31.1 IP across 19 games (3 starts) with a 26/10 K:BB. Newcomb is a 26-year-old left-hander who was the first round pick at 15th overall of the Los Angeles Angels in the 2014 MLB Draft. He came to the Braves in a five-player deal back in November 2015 in which Andrelton Simmons went to LA. He began the season in the Atlanta rotation, but was removed after three starts and sent to Triple-A. He returned quickly and made 17 appearances out of the bullpen. This will mark his return to the rotation, and reports are that he is likely to be limited to 75-80 pitches.

 

PHILLIES NUGGETS PREGAME NOTES

  • The Braves eight-game winning streak marks the first time they have enjoyed one this long since May of 2013. It is also the longest winning streak by any National League team in the 2019 season to this point. As a contrast, the longest winning streak that the Phillies have enjoyed is one four-gamer.
  • Atlanta has now defeated the Phillies in six straight games at home.
  • The Braves 23-9 hot stretch can be directly traced to May 10, the day that manager Brian Snitker moved dynamic young outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year, into the leadoff spot in his batting order. Acuna has slashed .298/.361/.511 with eight homers, 14 extra-base hits, 23 RBIs, and 22 runs scored out of the leadoff spot since that time.
  • The last three days have marked the first time that Atlanta has been atop the NL East standings this year. Prior to that, the Phillies had spent all but seven days of the 2019 regular season in first place. A year ago on their way to a division crown, the Braves spent 108 days alone in first place.
  • Three home runs last night gave Atlanta 103 on the season. That is three more than the club hit in the entire 2015 season. The franchise record is 235, set back in 2003, and they are currently on pace to blow past that mark.
  • The Braves won the 2018 NL East crown largely by defeating their divisional rivals, going 49-27 within the division. This season, Atlanta has played just 19 games within the division, the least against divisional rivals of any team in baseball. They are now 11-8 against the east in the 2019 season following Friday night’s victory.

 

INJURY REPORT

PHILLIES: Finally beginning to get some good news on the health front. Edubray Ramos returned to the bullpen this week. Reliever Pat Neshek and center fielder Roman Quinn could return this weekend. Adam Morgan is expected to begin a rehab assignment next week. David Robertson and Tommy Hunter could be back within a month. Adam Haseley suffered a groin strain and can come off the IL on Monday, but may return to the minor leagues at that point with Quinn due to return. Reliever Seranthony Dominguez will rehab and may be able to avoid TJ surgery, but remains out for the foreseeable future. Outfielder Andrew McCutchen had successful knee surgery this week and will return for 2020 spring training.

BRAVES: Center fielder Ender Inciarte remains out with a lumbar strain and has no timetable for a return at this point. Starting pitcher Kevin Gausman was placed on the IL earlier this week suffering from plantar fasciitis in his right foot. Righty reliever Darren O’Day has a right forearm strain and is on the 60-day IL as of June 7.

 

TICKET IQ PROGRAMMING INFORMATION

 

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