The Philadelphia Phillies (44-40) slumped during the month of June, and watched as the defending NL East Division champion Atlanta Braves (50-35) stormed past them to take over the division lead.
With the calendar flipped to a new month, the Phillies hope to make a clean start. They will try to begin pecking away at the Braves five-game lead in the loss column during a three-game series this week at SunTrust Park in Atlanta.
The two teams have met for two series in the 2019 season’s first half. At Citizens Bank Park in late March, the Phillies swept the Braves, setting the stage for the first two months which saw the Phillies hold the division lead for all but seven days.
In mid-June, Atlanta took two of three games in front of their home fans at SunTrust Park, winning the opener in walkoff fashion and then blowing the doors off the Phillies with a 15-1 thrashing on Father’s Day.
TOP LINEUP THREATS
Freddie Freeman: .312/.399/.592, 22 homers, 47 extra-base hits, 65 RBIs, 63 runs, 3 steals
Ronald Acuna Jr. .295/.376/.513, 20 homers, 33 extra-base hits, 52 RBIs, 64 runs, 13 steals
Ozzie Albies: .281/.342/.465, 13 homers, 32 extra-base hits, 46 RBIs, 51 runs, 6 steals
Nick Markakis: .275/.354/.426, 8 homers, 27 extra-base hits, 48 RBIs, 54 runs, 0 steals
Dansby Swanson: .269/.332/.483, 15 homers, 36 extra-base hits, 52 RBIs, 55 runs, 7 steals
Josh Donaldson: .253/.358/.478, 15 homers, 35 extra-base hits, 39 RBIs, 44 runs, 2 steals
Austin Riley: .273/.326/.582, 14 homers, 22 extra-base hits, 37 RBIs, 32 runs, 0 steals (just 43 game; promoted 5/15)
Brian McCann: .267/.339/.466, 8 homers, 13 extra-base hits, 30 RBIs, 17 runs scored.
The 35-year-old played the first nine seasons of his now 15-year big-league career in Atlanta after the club originally selected him in the second round of the 2002 MLB Draft out of a local Georgia high school. He became a 7x NL All-Star during that first stint with the club and won five Silve Slugger Awards, becoming recognized as the top offensive catcher in the National League over the first decade of the 21st century.
McCann became a free agent following the 2013 season and signed with the New York Yankees, where he won an American League Silver Slugger in the 2015 campaign. The Yanks dealt him to the Houston Astros in November 2016, and McCann helped Houston to win the franchise (and his) first World Series championship in 2017.
A free agent once again this past off-season, McCann returned to the Braves, inking a one-year deal. He has proven a bargain at $2 million bucks, taking on the role of the lefty side of a catching platoon with the righty-swinging Tyler Flowers.
McCann is a noted Phillies-killer, slashing .280/.351/.484 with 23 home runs. That marks the most that he has blasted against any one team, and he has consistently produced at key moments over 136 career games against the Phillies. He produced a three-hit game that included one of those homers back on June 14 during a 9-8 Phillies victory in Atlanta.
SCHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS
FRIDAY – Dallas Keuchel: 31-year-old veteran lefty is 1-1, 5.06 ERA, 1.781 WHIP, 16 hits over 10.2 IP with a 5/3 K:BB. Signed with the Braves as a free agent on June 6 and joined the big club after making two minor league tuneup starts. This will be just his third start in an Atlanta uniform, his first in front of the home crowd. Keuchel has made two career starts vs the Phillies, but those were way back in 2012 and 2014 while he was with the Houston Astros.
SATURDAY – Bryse Wilson: 21-year-old rookie right-hander is ranked as the Braves #5 prospect. He has pitched in three big-league games, making two starts, allowing 11 hits over 8.2 IP with a 10/5 K:BB. Wilson started against the Phillies back on March 30, allowing 4 earned runs on 5 hits over just 3.1 innings and surrendering a homer run to Maikel Franco.
SUNDAY – Mike Soroka: One of the leading contenders for the National League Rookie of the Year Award, the 21-year-old righty has been named to the NL All-Star team. He has gone 9-1, 2.13 ERA, 0.980 WHIP. Soroka has allowed 64 hits over 84.2 IP with a 67/19 K:BB over 14 starts after debuting in 2018 with five solid starts. This will be his first time facing the Phillies.
“Guys are starting to feel it,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said per Mark Bowman for MLB.com after his squad crushed the Phillies on Father’s Day. “I kind of felt as the weather got warm we’d get going.” Man, have they ever got going? Snitker’s club has gone 32-15 since ending a four-game losing skid on May 9 that left them two games below the .500 mark.
The 63-year-old Snitker worked his way up the ladder in the Braves organization, taking over as skipper during the 2016 campaign. He has fashioned an overall 271-262 record as the manager, leading the Braves to the 2018 NL East crown.
SunTrust Park is located 10 miles northwest of downtown Atlanta. The ballpark opened for the 2017 season, and has a regular capacity of just over 41,000 seats.
Dimensions at the ballpark are 335 to left and 325 feet down the right field line. It is 375 to right-center and 385 out to left-center, and a shot to dead-center field will have to clear the fence at an even 400 feet away.
‘The Freeze‘ is a between innings foot-race attraction, as a lucky (?) gets a chance with a large head start to defeat a member of the Braves grounds crew in a foot race.
MORE FROM PHILLIES NATION:
- Nola to oppose Keuchel as Phillies open key series in Atlanta
- Phillies may have too many holes to fix at the 2019 MLB trade deadline
- 2019 MLB Power Rankings: July 1
- Larry Shenk’s Phillies Minor League Report: 7/1/19
- Matt Veasey’s NL East Beat: Week of 6/24-6/30/19