After sweeping the Miami Marlins over the weekend, the Phillies will get some tougher competition this week as the Atlanta Braves come to town for a four-game series. Can the Phillies’ offense continue to produce against a tough Atlanta pitching staff? Can the Phillies pitchers keep the ball in the yard when facing Braves sluggers like Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton?
You can check out Pete Dymeck’s preseason preview of the Braves here.
Brief summary of the Braves season thus far
The Atlanta Braves won the National League East in 2013, and look like they want to repeat the feat this season. They’re off to an 8-4 start, but despite scoring ten runs in yesterday’s win over the Nationals, they’ve largely done it with pitching.
Even with Freeman and Upton off to hot starts, the Braves only rank 27th in baseball in runs scored. One the other hand, their pitching has been superb. None of their starters has an ERA over 3.00, and the offseson pickups of Aaron Harang and Ervin Santana have looked like great moves.
Phillies vs. Braves: The rivalry
The Phillies and Braves opened the 2013 season against each other, with the Braves winning the first two games. Those victories set the tone for the season, as the Phillies were 8-11 against Atlanta. Before I looked it up, I would have guessed that the season series was even more lopsided. The Braves’ dominance against the Phillies was typical of how they handled all of their divisional rivals, as the Braves went 47-29 against the National League East in 2013.
Reason to hate the Braves
B. J. Upton and Dan Uggla provide Phillies fans with two good reason to hate the Braves.
Usually for this section, I choose players who have done a lot of damage to the Phillies. Or I sometimes pick a player who is annoying or has done something to merit disdain. (Too bad Brian McCann is no longer on the team.) Upton and Uggla do not fall into either of those categories.
The reason I chose Upton and Uggla is because they have both been awful since the beginning of 2013, but it hasn’t seemed to hurt the Braves at all. How is it possible that the team can have two players who have been huge liabilities in their every day lineup, and yet they succeed anyway? The remainder of the Braves’ lineup doesn’t appear to be good enough to compensate for the sub .200 averages that these two have been carrying. So what the heck is going on, and why can’t the Phillies seem to copy it?
In tonight’s series opener – telvised by ESPN – the Phillies will send Roberto Hernandez to the mound. He’s only faced the Braves once in his career, and that was in 2007. Hernandez pitched well in that start, limiting the Braves to two runs in seven innings. But that was so long ago, I’m not sure much – if anything – can be taken from it.
Hernandez will be opposed by Ervin Santana. Santana was signed late in the offseason, and in his first start, he made the Braves look very smart. He went eight innings against the Mets, and only allowed one run on three hits.
This will be a good early test for the Phillies. The Braves appear to be one of the favorites to make the postseason, and it will be interesting to see how well the Phillies stack up. If they can win the series (or even look competitive in a split), it will be a strong sign that the Phillies might surprise people and make some noise this year.
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