The Phillies are currently riding a 3-game win series and will need to carry that momentum into the upcoming series against the Braves. After taking the last 2 games from the Nationals, the Phillies have no climbed to 3rd in the NL East. The Braves lead the pack in the NL East with a record of 18-12 and look to be the most complete team in the division this year. The Phillies have 3 important games ahead of them in this series as the end of the season is already beginning to linger.
Given the unique circumstances of this year’s season, the MLB has raised the number of teams making the postseason from 10 to 16. The playoffs will be more open than ever before and the Phillies need to take full advantage of that. Given the disappointing start to the season, the Phillies must kick it into gear now and have those extra playoff slots to set their sights on. This new playoff set-up means that the top 2 teams from each division will make the playoffs as well as 2 wild cards in each league. This means the Phillies could potentially stay at the 3rd spot in the NL East and have a chance to make the playoffs which is extremely encouraging.
The Braves were a popular pick to win the division going into this year, so it is no surprise to see them having success early on. Marcell Ozuna, Freddie Freeman, and Ronald Acuna all post serious power and are threats to go deep on a regular basis. Dansby Swanson is also a player to watch as he is blossoming into a very talented shortstop. He is 26 years old and this is only his second year with the Braves but he is currently hitting .319 and has driven in 18 RBI’s. The Braves; shortcomings come on the mound, as their starting pitching has proven to be a question mark. While they are looking to improve in this area with the looming trade deadline, it is this is an area that the Phillies must look to take advantage of.
Matchup with Phillies
The series will begin on Friday at 7:05. The pitching matchup will be Zack Wheeler versus Robbie Erlin. Wheeler has been impressive this year as he boasts a 3-0 record and an ERA of 2.76. His last game pitched came against the Braves where he pitched 7 innings allowing 2 runs and striking out 8 before the bullpen blew the game and gave the Braves a win. On the other hand, Robbie Erlin has been not had a great start to the season. Erlin is a lefty who has a fastball that comes in around the high 80’s to low 90’s. He also has solid change-up and an above-average curveball. His ERA sits at 5.14 on the season on only 14 innings pitched.
On Saturday the Phillies will be slated for a 1:15 start. Zach Eflin will take the hill for the Phillies who has undoubtedly been the less impressive Zach. Eflin has a 1-1 record with an ERA of 5.12 in his 4 starts so far this year. He has shown improvement in getting hitters to miss this year and has 29 strikeouts to show for this. He will be matched up against Josh Tomlin who will be pitching for the Braves. Tomlin has not pitched more than 4 innings in an outing so far this year, but he also has a solid curveball that he tends to use when up in the count.
On Sunday it is still up the air who the Braves will send out to pitch. On the Phillies end, it is likely that Jake Arrieta will take the mound. No matter who is out there it is clear these are 3 important games for the Phillies. If they are able to take advantage of this series they could potentially climb to the 2nd spot in the division. They currently sit 2 games back from the Marlins, but if they can leapfrog them in the standings they will be in the driver’s seat for the rest of their season. Despite how bad it feels the Phillies have been (mainly thanks to the bullpen), there is a large amount of baseball left to be played and the Phillies still have everything that was hoped for this season still in play.
Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire
Lifelong Philly Sports fan and current college student at Alvernia University. Writes about Sixers and Phillies and Co-Host of Pick Swap Podcast
Twitter: @Sean_Barnard1 and @PickSwapPod