Philadelphia Phillies vs. Atlanta Braves series preview: The Braves come to town with revenge on their minds
By Mike Lacy
Julio Teheran. Image Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
After Thursday’s marathon 14-inning game, the Phillies won’t have much time to rest. The Braves come to town for a four-game weekend series, and they’ll likely have revenge on their minds.
The last time they met
When these teams met in Atlanta last week, the Phillies showed that when everything goes well, they can actually look like a good baseball team. A combination of strong pitching and clutch hitting allowed the Phils to sweep the Braves in a three-game series.
The key figure for the Phillies was Ryan Howard who continued his career-long dominance in Turner Field by hitting two home runs.
What’s new with the Braves?
I thought that series might have been more telling about the quality of the Braves than it was about the Phillies. To their credit, the Braves didn’t let the sweep get them down. They recovered to split a four-game series with the Nationals and followed that by winning two out of three against the Astros.
Admittedly, those are modest accomplishments. The Braves have owned the Nationals the past two seasons, so the split might have actually been a bit of a disappointment. And for all their young talent, the Astros are still a last place team.
Braves player who isn’t entirely horrible
Evan Gattis. Image Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Evan Gattis is showing that it was the right move to get rid of Brian McCann. The Braves’ new catcher is tied for the team lead with 16 home runs to go along with a healthy .343 on-base percentage.
It isn’t clear if he’s quite as insufferable as McCann was though. He’ll likely need a couple more seasons in the big leagues to reach that level.
Braves player who is horrible
David Hale. Image Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
You’ll find it difficult to believe, but the Braves have actually brought up a young pitcher and he hasn’t instantly succeeded. In fact, David Hale has struggled considerably recently, recording a 9.90 ERA over the past month.
In the series against the Phillies, Hale appeared in relief in one of the games and proceeded to surrender five runs. While only two of those runs were earned, it was still representative of his recent outings.
Since the Phillies series, Hale has only pitched 0.1 innings, so it appears that the team has lost some faith in him.
Friday: Julio Teheran (6-5) vs. Kyle Kendrick (3-7)
The Phillies have struggled mightily against Teheran this season. In his two starts against them, he’s pitched seventeen innings and only given up one run.
Kendrick has now gone two straight starts without surrendering a first inning run. Can he make it three in a row? Considering they played a 14-inning game last night and have a doubleheader on Saturday, the bullpen could certainly use a lengthy outing from Kendrick.
Saturday, Game One: Ervin Santana (5-5) vs. Roberto Hernandez (3-6)
Ervin Santana. Image Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Santana has been illustrating why teams were so reluctant to sacrifice a draft pick by signing him this offseason. He hasn’t been awful, but he’s been far from elite. The future Braves may very well regret their decision to sign him.
Kendrick apparently got over his first inning struggles by passing them along to Hernandez. He’s given up six earned runs combined in the first inning of his last two starts.
Saturday, Game Two: David Hale (2-2) vs. Sean O’Sullivan (0-0)
As I mentioned above, Hale has not been very good lately. But double headers often result in teams being forced to go with sub-optimal starters, so Hale gets the call. He’ll probably only go a few innings before the rest of the game is handled by the bullpen.
Speaking of sub-optimal starters, the Phillies have called up Sean O’Sullivan to pitch in the second game. O’Sullivan is a major league journeyman who will be making his first start of the season.
Sunday: Aaron Harang (6-6) vs. David Buchanan (3-3)
The Phillies knocked Harang around rather soundly the last time they faced him, so they’re hoping they can repeat the performance. To his credit, Harang rebounded from that bludgeoning with a strong effort against the Astros in his last start.
Buchanan has won his last three starts, and is looking like he wants to keep his rotation spot when (if?) Cliff Lee returns. Since he’s not a flamethrower, Buchanan needs to be sure to locate his pitches. He walked an uncharacteristically high four batters in his last start.
The Braves will be out for revenge, and they’ll have the advantage of not facing the Phillies best two starters (Cole Hamels and A.J. Burnett)
The Phillies seem to like splitting four-game series, but I don’t think they’ll be able to do that again. The Braves will take three out of the four games.