Series Preview: Phillies at Braves

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Well, let’s start this series preview with a fairly obvious statement to any Phillies fan: our team is the worst in Major League Baseball. At the halfway point of the 2015 schedule, the current version of the Fightin’s has a 27-54 record, putting them on a 108-loss pace, a low-water mark that the franchise has not sunk to in any season since 1945.

The Braves (38-41) began the month of June with a win that pushed their record above the .500 mark. But since that point the team has staggered forward with a 12-16 mark over the past month. Injuries have been a huge factor, and now their top hitter, 1st baseman Freddie Freeman, is out with a wrist injury.

More from That Balls Outta Here

Still, Atlanta is just 5 games out in the National League East race, and just those same 5 games back in the Wildcard playoff race. This weekend ends a homestand for the Braves, who will head on the road through the All-Star break. This weekend marks the start of such a road trip for the Phils, who don’t return home to Citizens Bank Park until July 17th.

With Freeman out, the Atlanta lineup depends on someone being a “hot hand” on a given night from among outfielders Cameron Maybin (.281/6 HR/37 RBI), Nick Markakis (.299avg/.383obp), and Kelly Johnson (6 HR/22 RBI), 3rd baseman Juan Uribe (.305avg, 5 HR), catcher A.J. Pierzynski (5 HR/26 RBI), and the best defensive shortstop in the game, Andrelton Simmons, who is tied for the club lead with Freeman with 43 runs scored.

Rookie 3rd baseman Maikel Franco leads the Phillies offense, having already become it’s #3 place hitter in the batting order. He has a .294 average, and is 2nd on the club with 10 homers and 34 RBI, becoming the top 3rd baseman in the NL East. Cesar Hernandez has taken over at 2nd base and been red hot, hitting .284 with a .371 on-base percentage and 9 steals in just 188 plate appearances. Ben Revere is hitting .289 with 19 steals, while Ryan Howard leads the club with 13 homers and 37 RBI.

Coming off a four-game sweep at the hands of Milwaukee, the Phils have taken control of the race for the 1st overall pick in the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft, currently leading the Brewers by 6 games. Trade rumors continue to swirl around the team, especially regarding starter Cole Hamels and closer Jonathan Papelbon, and the July 31st trade deadline now begins to loom on the horizon.

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Friday: Adam Morgan (1-0, 1.59 ERA) vs Julio Teheran (5-4, 4.94 ERA) – the rookie Morgan gets his 2nd big league start after winning his first against the tough Saint Louis Cardinals. Morgan went 5.2 innings, allowing 6 hits and just a single earned run in a 9-2 victory back on June 21st. The 24-year old Teheran has been a huge disappointment, in his last 7 starts going 1-3 with a 6.14 ERA. The Phillies bats have been active the last few games, and hopefully they can give young Morgan some support here.

Saturday: Kevin Correia (0-2, 3.60 ERA) vs Alex Wood (5-5, 3.17 ERA) – Correia has made 4 starts since coming to the Phils in early June, and he has yet to reach 6 full innings in any outing, the team losing 3 of those 4. The 24-year old Wood is becoming one of the top young lefties in the game, and he has been especially tough in his last 7 starts with a tidy 2.51 ERA. This figures to be a tough matchup for the Phillies.

Sunday: Cole Hamels (5-6, 3.22 ERA) vs Shelby Miller (5-4, 2.20 ERA) – Hamels has largely pitched oblivious to the trade rumors swirling all around his name. The ace lefty has allowed just 87 hits in his 106.1 innings, with 113 strikeouts. However, he has allowed 11 homers, and they have cost him dearly at times. In his first season since coming from the Cardinals, Miller has also been outstanding. He has leveled off a bit, going 0-3 over his most recent 7 starts, with just a 32-14 K:BB ratio in that period. This one figures to turn on which ace makes the fewest mistakes.

SERIES KEYS

Bats stay hot – the Phillies got 3-hit games from 4 different players yesterday vs Milwaukee. They have scored 64 runs over their last 11 games, and have scored at least 7 runs five times in that span. The Braves three starters are young and talented, but they have been fairly inconsistent over the last month. The Phils need to take advantage of that inconsistency, putting pressure on the Braves lineup to keep pace.

Just lose, baby! – this is the Sam Hinkie 76ers strategic way of thinking. The Phils have built up a 6-game lead at the bottom of the MLB standings in the race for the top overall pick in next year’s draft, something the franchise has held just once in their history. In 1998, the team got Pat Burrell with that #1 overall pick. He reached the Majors in two years, and became a cornerstone through most of the last decade, culminating with the 2008 World Series victory.

Friday, July 3@Atlanta7:35 PMCSN1210 WPHT, 94 WIP, WTTM 1680 (Sp.)
Saturday, July 4@Atlanta7:15 PMFOX1210 WPHT, WTTM 1680 (Sp.), 94 WIP
Sunday, July 5@Atlanta1:35 PMCSN1210 WPHT, 94 WIP, WTTM 1680 (Sp.)

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE for this weekend at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia

Tonight

A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly after midnight. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 70. Southwest wind 5 to 10 mph, with gusts as high as 15 mph.

Independence Day

A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 82. West wind around 10 mph, with gusts as high as 15 mph. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

Saturday Night

A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 69. Southwest wind around 5 mph. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

Sunday

Showers and thunderstorms likely, mainly after 2pm. Cloudy, with a high near 83. Southwest wind around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.

Sunday Night

Showers and thunderstorms likely, mainly before 8pm. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 70. West wind around 5 mph becoming calm in the evening. Chance of precipitation is 60%.


INJURIES / DISABLED LISTS

BRAVESDateStatusDue BackInjuryNotes
Arroyo, Bronson (P)04/0560-day DLPossibly JulyRecovering from July 2014 Tommy John surgeryPlaced on 60-day DL on April 5.
Banuelos, Manny (P)07/02Any dayDay-to-dayCramping, dehydrationExited start early on July 2.
Cunniff, Brandon (P)06/2915-day DLPossibly JulyRight groin strainPlaced on 15-day DL on June 26.
Freeman, Freddie (1B)07/0315-day DLLikely after All-Star breakRight wrist sprainReceived PRP injection June 24; hoping to begin baseball activities late in week of June 29.
Minor, Mike (P)05/14Out for Season2016Recovering from May 2015 shoulder surgeryUnderwent successful surgery May 13; transferred to 60-day DL on May 2.
Outman, Josh (P)04/0660-day DLTBDLeft shoulder discomfortPlaced on 60-day DL on April 6.
Perez, Williams (P)06/2715-day DLPossibly mid-JulyBruised left footX-rays were negative, placed in walking boot on June 26; placed on 15-day DL on June 27.
Simmons, Shae (P)02/12Out for Season2016Recovering from February 2015 Tommy John surgeryUnderwent Tommy John surgery Feb. 12.
Winkler, Daniel (P)04/0560-day DLPossibly late 2015Recovering from June 2014 Tommy John surgery.Placed on 60-day DL on April 5.
Withrow, Chris (P)06/2060-day DLPossibly 2015Recovering from June 2014 Tommy John surgeryUnderwent back surgery to repair herniated disk week of Dec. 1.

PHILLIESDateStatusDue BackInjuryNotes
Billingsley, Chad (P)07/0115-day DLJuly 2Grade 2 right lat strainSent on Triple-A rehab assignment June 15.
Harang, Aaron (P)07/0215-day DLTBDPlantar fasciitis in left footPlaced on 15-day DL on July 2.
Hollands, Mario (P)04/20Out for Season2016Recovering from April 2015 Tommy John surgeryUnderwent Tommy John surgery April 8.
Lee, Cliff (P)04/0560-day DLPossibly 2015Left common flexor tendon tearShut down from throwing, placed on 60-day DL on March 16.
Pettibone, Jonathan (P)05/0960-day DLTBDRecovering from June 2014 right elbow surgeryTransferred to 60-day DL on April 28.
Utley, Chase (2B)06/2415-day DLPossibly JulyRight ankle inflammationPlaced on 15-day DL on June 23.
Williams, Jerome (P)06/1715-day DLPossibly early JulyLeft hamstring strainPlaced on 15-day DL on June 17.
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