Phillies bullpen looking to find an even-keel against Braves

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Game One: Friday at 7:05

Probable Pitchers:

The Phillies will allow Vince Velasquez to get what could be his final start of the season (see game three). Vinny Velo did not have much success in his first outing, allowing a pair of homers, four hits, and two walks through three innings in a loss to the Marlins. As ESPN notes, Velasquez has struggled against the Braves throughout his career, though he is coming off his best season against them. He went 1-1 with a 7.04 ERA in three games, two starts, against Atlanta in 2019. He won his last start against the Braves on Sept. 17, when he allowed two runs and struck out eight in five innings — but that is his only win against Atlanta. In 12 career appearances (11 starts), he is 1-6 with a 5.20 ERA against the Braves.

On the flip side, Atlanta will have Kyle Wright on the mound. Also struggling with command in his first two starts of 2020, Wright has seen two polar opposite performances.  In six innings, he has allowed nine hits and issued seven walks, with opponents batting .346 against him. In his most recent start last Sunday, Wright did not allow a run, despite giving up five hits and four walks.

Game Two: Saturday at 6:05

Jake Arrieta will get the nod for Saturday night’s matchup. Arrieta did okay in his first start. Pitching against the Yankees’ lineup is never an easy task, but the often frustrating Jake Arrieta held his ground. On Monday night, Arrieta surrendered a pair of homers, both of which may have stayed in the yard if it was at nearly any other ballpark. Through five innings, Arrieta allowed seven hits and three earned runs- something he’ll have to clean up Saturday night. For his career, Arrieta is 5-3 with a 3.27 ERA against Atlanta. In his two seasons at Philly, Arrieta is 2-2 with a 4.12 ERA against the Braves.

As of now, the Braves do not have a pitcher listed to oppose Arrieta. After Mike Soroka tore his Achilles earlier in the week, Atlanta is on the prowl for a new pitcher in their organization.

Game Three: Sunday at 1:05

Philadelphia has not listed a starter for Sunday afternoon’s game. However, Phillies’ fans may finally get what they’ve been waiting for. Joe Girardi hinted that there may be a surprise on its way for Sunday. This surprise most obviously being Spencer Howard.

After having to wait six games so Howard did not lose an extra year under the team’s control, he could burst onto the scene and take the spot of Vinny Velo in the rotation. It’s either that, or Girardi has officially lost it and will do an “opener” tactic. Let’s just hope it’s the former.

The Braves will have their “new” ace with Soroka going down on Sunday to oppose “he who shall be named later.” Max Fried has dominated so far this season. He’s allowed just two runs over his past 12 1/3 innings. His curveball has always drawn attention, but his slider has become his best pitch. In his young career, Fried is 1-2 with a 5.47 ERA against Philly, though.

Game Four: Monday at 6:05

Again, the Phillies do not have a named starter for Monday quite yet. I would imagine that Nola or Wheeler get the nod here, but nothing is official yet. If following the rotation that’s on paper, things should get back to normal and Nola should get the nod. Nola has done great against Atlanta in his career, posting a 10-5 record with a 2.94 ERA.

On the flip side, Sean Newcomb will get the start for Atlanta for the series finale. As MLB.com notes, Newcomb made progress in that his third start was better than either of his first two. But the lefty still hasn’t completed five innings this season. He believes the success he had as a reliever last year will help him be more aggressive within the strike zone, but command remains an issue. So far this season, Newcomb is 0-1 with a 6.57 ERA, and only has a combined nine strikeouts through three starts and has only lasted 12.1 total innings.

Players to watch:

Phillies:

This one shouldn’t come as a big surprise. For the Phillies, the two big names to watch for this series are Bryce Harper and JT Realmuto. The Braves will need to find an answer for Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto. Over his last five games, the best catcher in baseball is hitting .400 (8-for-20) and has homered in back-to-back games. Even though Harper may only be hitting .250 this season, he has a whopping .275 with 32 homers in his career against the Braves. He went deep seven times against Atlanta in 2019.

Braves:

Adam Duvall is off to a surprisingly good start to the season. So far, the outfielder is batting .368 (7-for-19) to start the season with two homers, six runs scored and four RBI. Markakis was the hero on Thursday and needs one double to become the 64th player in history to reach the 500 mark as well for the Braves.

Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

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