While MLB’s Trade Deadline has everyone’s attention, the upcoming week is going to be a big one for the division race in the NL East. The Atlanta Braves climbed to a season-best 21 games over .500 with a 1-0 walk-off win over the Diamondbacks Sunday. They are in second place in the division standings, three games back of the New York Mets. Atlanta will begin the week at home with a brief two-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies who are in third place in the division, but currently hold a slim lead over the Cardinals for the final NL playoff spot. The Braves will end this stretch with a five-game, four-day series in New York against the division-leading Mets.
The Braves have won three straight games and were 18-8 in July. They are 39-14 dating back to the start of June. Atlanta has won three of its past four series, but that one loss came in Philadelphia where they dropped two of three last week. The Braves and Phillies are 5-5 in 10 matchups so far this season.
The Phillies come in playing well, having won five straight and six of seven overall. They were 15-10 in July and are 34-18 since the start of June. So while everyone has been talking about the Braves and the Mets, the Phillies have also positioned themselves as a playoff team. They come into this series with an average position player crew held down by awful defense, and some very good pitching, including a top-three rotation in the majors.
Tuesday, August 2, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
Nick Nelson (27 G, 1 GS, 48.0 IP, 23.3 K%, 11.2 BB%, 3.94 ERA, 2.95 FIP)
Kyle Gibson was originally scheduled to start for the Phillies Tuesday, but he was placed on the bereavement list Sunday. With Gibson no longer an option, Philadelphia will instead go with a bullpen game, with right-hander Nick Nelson serving as the opener. Nelson started back on July 10 in St. Louis where he allowed three hits and one run in two innings. He has made two appearances against Atlanta this season, allowing five hits and two earned runs in two innings.
Spencer Strider (22 G, 11 GS, 80.1 IP, 37.2 K%, 9.6 BB%, 2.91 ERA, 2.17 FIP)
Spencer Strider will make his 12th start of the season for the Braves in Tuesday’s opener. He will be facing the Phillies for the second straight start after allowing three hits and one run over six innings in his first start since the break last week. In that game, he defeated Aaron Nola, giving the Braves a win in a game in which they weren’t favored.
Wednesday, August 3, 12:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
Zack Wheeler (19 GS, 113.2 IP, 26.9 K%, 5.5 BB%, 2.77 ERA, 2.85 FIP)
Right-hander Zack Wheeler will get the start in Wednesday’s afternoon finale. Wheeler has pitched well coming out of the All-Star Break, allowing three runs total in two starts. This will be his third appearance against Atlanta this season. Wheeler allowed eight hits, two runs and struck out 10 in 6 2/3 innings back on May 23. At Truist Park on June 28, he allowed three runs, including a pair of homers, and struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings.
Charlie Morton (20 GS, 110.0 IP, 27.0 K%, 9.0 BB%, 4.34 ERA, 4.07 FIP)
Charlie Morton will get the call in Wednesday’s finale and will be looking for a bounce-back performance in his rematch with the Phillies. Morton got off to a great start last Wednesday in the series finale up in Philadelphia but had things unravel in the fifth thanks to lackluster defense behind him, and the usual third-time-through problems. He allowed six hits and five runs, although only four were earned, in five innings. Morton added five more strikeouts to his total and now has 80 in 60 2/3 innings since the start of June.