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Braves head to Philadelphia for a matchup against Phillies

Atlanta’s magic number to clinch the NL East is down to six.

Miami Marlins v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

After a 3-3 homestand, the Atlanta Braves will head back out on the road and make a quick trip to Philadelphia, where they will take on the Phillies in a four-game series. The series will begin with a doubleheader on Monday, which is the result of a rainout in Philadelphia on June 21.

The Braves clinched a playoff spot with a win over the Pirates on Sunday and lowered their magic number to clinch a sixth-straight NL East crown to six. Atlanta is 93-49 on the season and leads the Phillies by 15 games. The Braves are 4-2 against Philadelphia this season and the two teams still have seven games to play over the final three weeks of the regular season.

Ronald Acuña Jr. put together a torrid week during the homestand, going 8-for-22 at the plate with three home runs. Acuña has put together a legendary season and is on the cusp of rewriting some of the record books. He already became the first player with 30 home runs and 60 stolen bases in a season. He needs just five more homers to reach the 40 home run mark. Acuña is just two runs scored away from tying Dale Murphy’s modern-day franchise record of 131. He also needs nine more stolen bases to eclipse Otis Nixon’s modern day record of 72 steals.

Acuña isn’t the only one that has a record in his sight, though. Matt Olson homered five times during the homestand and now has 48 for the season. He is just three away from Andruw Jones’ franchise record of 51.

The Phillies are 78-64 on the season and are 4-5 so far in September. They currently hold the top Wild Card spot and have a two-game advantage over the Cubs. Kyle Schwarber has been putting up big numbers along with Trea Turner, who is hitting .296/.350/.583 with a 147 wRC+ since the All-Star break.

Overall, the Phillies combine good hitting, some of the worst defensive play in MLB, and the league’s best pitching staff into into a top-10 record in MLB. They’re underperforming their BaseRuns record by four games, so really their pitching and hitting warrant something better than 78-64... but given that they already have the first Wild Card spot and four more games wouldn’t make a meaningful difference in the NL East anyway, there’s not much more you can say to bolster the case that they should be even better.

Monday, September 1, Game 1, 1:05 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)

Charlie Morton (27 GS, 151.2 IP, 25.5 K%, 10.9 BB%, 43.9 GB%, 3.32 ERA, 3.80 FIP)

Charlie Morton will get the call for the Braves in the first game of Monday’s doubleheader. Morton has turned another solid season for the Braves in his age-39 season. He put up a 1.91 ERA in five starts in August and finished the month allowing just one run over his last 24 innings. He allowed six hits and two runs, but exited after four innings in his first start in September against the Dodgers. Morton had a nice start against the Phillies earlier this season, with a 9/4 K/BB ratio and two runs charged to him (no homers) in 5 13 innings. The Phillies have a lot of dangerous lefty bats, so this is an opportunity to show everyone whether the adjustments he’s made over the course of the season can help him against the substantial degree of platoon disadvantage he’ll likely face in the playoffs.

Taijuan Walker (27 GS, 147.1 IP, 19.7 K%, 9.9 BB%, 46.0 GB%, 4.15 ERA, 4.55 FIP)

The Phillies gave Taijuan Walker a fat contract this past offseason and he will face the Braves for the second time this season in the first game of Monday’s doubleheader. Walker’s season got off to a rough start, but he settled in through June and July. He’s been up and down of late, having allowed three runs or more in four of his last five starts. He allowed five hits, three walks and four runs in five innings in his last outing against the Padres. Walker faced the Braves back in May and allowed 10 hits, but just three runs over 6 2/3 innings. That game featured a bizarre 1/1 K/BB ratio and a homer allowed from Walker, something he hasn’t repeated or even come close to at any point.

Walker has been really inconsistent as he wraps up an average-y season. He has an xFIP above 5.00 in his last nine starts, but three of those have been good.

Monday, September 1, Game 2, 6:40 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)


Spencer Strider was originally lined up to start one of the doubleheader games Monday, but is sick and will be pushed back a couple of days, with his start now tentatively scheduled for Wednesday. The Braves pitched Dylan Dodd on Saturday and Allan Winans on Sunday, so neither of those guys are available. Darius Vines was used in relief on Saturday and Jared Shuster pitched at Gwinnett Friday. All of this puts the Braves in a bit of a sticky situation, which seemed to be lined up well but for Strider’s illness. Kyle Wright threw 50 pitches in his third rehab start Tuesday and might be an option to get the game started. AJ Smith-Shawver was recalled to the roster Sunday, but is still building back up after a stint on the Injured List with a shoulder injury.

Michael Lorenzen (24 GS, 143.2 IP, 18.0 K%, 7.1 BB%, 41.3 GB%, 3.95 ERA, 4.34 FIP)

Michael Lorenzen will get the start for the Phillies in Game 2 of Monday’s twin bill. The Phillies picked up Lorenzen from the Tigers at the Trade Deadline and he paid immediate dividends by tossing a no-hitter in his second start with the club. Since then, he has allowed 19 earned runs in his last 21 innings across four starts. In short, he’s been worth just 0.1 fWAR in six starts with the Phillies, and has a 113 ERA-, 126 FIP-, and 128 xFIP- He allowed eight hits and six earned runs over six innings in his last start in San Diego.

Lorenzen has allowed six homers in his last four starts. The Braves also hit three homers off of him when they faced him in Detroit, as part of a six-run drubbing in which Lorenzen only managed a 3/2 K/BB ratio.

Tuesday, September 2, 6:40 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)

Max Fried (12 GS, 66.2 IP, 24.9 K%, 5.6 BB%, 56.0 GB%, 2.70 ERA, 2.99 FIP)

Max Fried will make his 13th start of the season and his seventh since returning from the Injured List at the start of August. Fried appears to be rounding into shape after missing three months with a strained forearm. He was at his best on the past road trip where he struck out 10 while throwing seven scoreless innings in a win over the Dodgers. He didn’t have his best stuff in his last start, but still found a way to log six innings while allowing three runs against the Cardinals. It was an uncharacteristically fly ball-heavy start for Fried, as his 27.8 percent grounder rate tied a start from 2022, and was the lowest since an outing in May 2021.

Zack Wheeler (28 GS, 170.0 IP, 27.7 K%, 4.6 BB%, 41.6 GB%, 3.49 ERA, 2.93 FIP)

The Phillies have spent a lot of money over the last several years, but none better than the five-year, $118 million deal that they gave Zack Wheeler. Wheeler will get the start on Tuesday opposite of Max Fried. He has been a workhorse for the Phillies and among the best pitchers in the league, with a substantial MLB lead in fWAR. Wheeler tossed six scoreless innings in his last start against the Padres. He faced the Braves back in May and struck out 12 while tossing eight scoreless innings. Wheeler is on a roll of four straight dominant starts, having put up a 32/3 K/BB ratio in his last 26 innings. He’s gone 16 straight outings without an unequivocally bad start.

Wednesday, September 3, 6:40 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)

Spencer Strider (28 GS, 162.0 IP, 37.8 K%, 7.9 BB%, 34.6 GB%, 3.83 ERA, 2.89 FIP)

Word was that if it had been a playoff situation, Strider would have taken his normal turn in Monday’s doubleheader. However, given the lead that the Braves have, there was no reason to push Strider, who will move back to starting on Wednesday as he recuperates from an illness. The extra rest could do him good anyway. He was never able to settle in during his last start and exited after just 2 2/3 innings, having allowed six hits and six runs against the Cardinals. Strider leads the majors with 250 strikeouts and is just 26 away from tying John Smoltz’s single season record. He’s second in the NL, and third in MLB, in fWAR, behind Wheeler and Kevin Gausman.

Cristopher Sanchez (15 GS, 80.0 IP, 22.8 K%, 4.1 BB%, 58.6 GB%, 3.26 ERA, 4.15 FIP)

Left-hander Cristopher Sánchez will get the nod for the Phillies in the finale Wednesday. Sanchez has been a nice surprise for Philadelphia and has helped solidify their rotation. Atlanta has feasted on left-handed pitching in 2023, but Sanchez will be an interesting matchup given his 58.6 percent ground-ball rate. He allowed just four hits over five scoreless innings in his last start against the Marlins. Sanchez brings a stellar 74 xFIP- across 15 starts into this game, and has been dominant over his last four, with a 20/1 K/BB ratio in his last 21 23 innings, though he has allowed two homers in that span.

Sanchez had a two-inning relief appearance against the Braves back in 2021, but hasn’t faced them since.

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