After the Braves managed to not only break a long losing streak against the Washington Nationals but also took two out of three against them, Atlanta will now be entering into what should be a favorable stretch of games as we head into the All-Star break. They'll be facing the Brewers, Rockies, and this weekend's opponent: The Philadelphia Phillies.
Everyone predicted that 2015 would be a rough season for the Phillies, and so far, everyone was correct. According to MLB.com's Postseason Probabilities chart, the Phillies currently have a 0% chance at winning the NL East, and are one of three teams (the other two being the Rockies and Brewers. Again, this is a favorable stretch for the Braves coming up) with 0% chance at the Wild Card. A 27-54 record will do that for you. It's been tough sailing for the Phillies this season, but they've been just as bad as advertised.
Since being called up, Maikel Franco has been Philadelphia's best player this season. Franco is a rookie who was called up in mid-May, and ever since then, he's been hitting .294/.339/.539 with 10 homers and 141 wRC+. This was good enough for him to be named the NL Rookie of the Month for June, which is without a doubt the highlight of the season for the Phillies so far. However, if a rookie is leading your team and he isn't a transcendent-type player, you're probably in big trouble. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are continuing their age-related decline (especially Utley. He's been worth -1.3 fWAR this season. Yeesh!), and the rest of the veterans on the team have been producing at a level that's either well below or barely above replacement level. This is a far cry from those old Phillies teams who used to be able to put a crooked number on the scoreboard at will.
On the pitching side of things, it's been just as bad. Sunday's starter is Cole Hamels, and while he's had himself a solid season so far, there are still trade winds blowing around him, so the chances of him staying around with Philadelphia are pretty low. The Braves will have to deal with him on Sunday, and Atlanta's offense can still look pretty weak without Freddie Freeman, so that will probably be the toughest game of the series when it comes to pitching matchups. On the other hand, Philadelphia's two pitchers for Friday and Saturday have a combined five starts this season. Saturday's starter Kevin Correia has finally found a landing spot this season, and it's with the Phillies. Poor Kevin Correia. Meanwhile, Friday's starter Adam Morgan was recently called up from Philadelphia's AAA affiliate, and will be making the second start of his career. Those two will be going opposite of Alex Wood and Julio Teheran, respectively. I'd say that the Braves have the advantage in the pitching matchup.
The Phillies are dealing with a lot of turmoil right now. They're dealing with the fallout of a manger who resigned because the losing was too much to deal with, and they're also having to deal with the winds of change in their front office. Andy MacPhail is now running the show in Philadelphia, and pretty much everybody has been put on notice there (looking at you, Mr. Amaro). It could be argued that any time this season would be a good time to run into the Phillies, but this is an especially good time. If the Braves don't at least take two out of three in this series, then there should be some real disappointment in Atlanta's camp afterwards. This is a nice opportunity for the Braves to start building some positive momentum heading into the All-Star break. Hopefully they can take advantage of it and give us some fireworks to cheer about.
Friday, July 3rd at 7:35 PM EST
Adam Morgan (PHI): 1-0, 5.2 IP, 6 H, 6 K, 2 BB in his first career start
Julio Teheran (ATL): 5-4, 4.94 ERA, 4.68 FIP, 1.33 HR/9
Saturday, July 4th at 7:10 PM EST
Kevin Correia (PHI): 0-2, 3.60 ERA, 4.63 FIP, 17.6 HR/FB%
Alex Wood (ATL): 5-5, 3.17 ERA, 3.18 FIP, 0.48 HR/9
Sunday, July 5th at 1:35 PM EST
Cole Hamels (PHI): 5-6, 3.22 ERA, 3.43 FIP, 9.56 K/9
Shelby Miller (ATL): 5-4, 2.20 ERA, 3.18 FIP, 5.6 HR/FB%