Phillies host division clash with Braves

Posted by Kevin Durso

Philliedelphia/Kevin Durso

Their record against the Atlanta Braves this season is 6-6. There are six games left between the two. These are the last three that could have any meaning. And, even then, they don't have much meaning anyway.

With a 7.5 game lead in the NL East, the Phillies have nothing to lose in this series (except for up to three games in the standings). But, the Braves still feel they have a chance, and that's enough to make this a big series. The Braves have the benefit of the hot-hitting Brian McCann back in their lineup, and with a supporting cast like Chipper Jones and Dan Uggla, they pack quite a punch. The Braves also added Michael Bourn to the top of their lineup at the deadline, so this is the first time the Phils see him with the Braves. Also, look for several players who have played the Phillies well, like Martin Prado and Alex Gonzalez. Finally, add in rookies Freddie Freeman and Jose Constanza, both who have been piling on solid numbers. It's a dangerous lineup, but the Phillies might just have something to say about that.

Here are the pitching matchups for the series:

In the opener, Cliff Lee (15-7, 2.59 ERA) takes on Derek Lowe (9-12, 4.52 ERA).

Lee pitched 8 2/3 shutout innings before leaving the game against the Reds in a 3-0 Phillies' win. Lee has won each of his last six starts, and also recorded a 16-strikeout game against the Braves this season. In his last start against the Braves, he went eight innings and allowed one run.

Lowe allowed a run over six innings in a win against the Nationals his last start. He has won three of his last five starts, but is just 4-6 in his last ten. That include a loss to the Phillies on July 10th, where he allowed four runs in six innings.

In the middle game, Vance Worley (10-1, 2.85 ERA) goes against Tim Hudson (14-8, 3.05 ERA).

Worley allowed four runs in six innings against the Reds, as he picked up his 10th win of the season. Worley has won seven of his last ten starts. The Phillies have also won 13 straight games started by Worley.

Hudson won his last start against the Nationals, allowing one run in six innings. Since his last start in July, he is 5-1.

In the finale, Roy Oswalt (7-8, 3.80 ERA) gets the start against Brandon Beachy (7-2, 3.37 ERA).

Oswalt allowed three runs over 6 1/3 innings to the Marlins in a win on Friday. Since returning from the DL on August 7th, Oswalt is 3-2, and has won three of his last four starts.

Beachy allowed three runs over six innings, taking a no decision in a Braves' loss to the Dodgers. Beachy has not lost a game since July 19th against the Rockies, and is 4-0 in that stretch.

Prediction:
September 5 – Phillies 3, Braves 1
September 6 – Phillies 2, Braves 4
September 7 – Phillies 3, Braves 5

I normally don't predict series losses for the Phillies, especially in the heat of the pennant race, but there are two contributing factors to this: the bullpen and the offense. It's not so much a trust factor with the bullpen as it is just a performance issue. The offense is the real issue.

The opener favors the Phillies, who have hit Lowe around before. And how can you go against Cliff Lee with the type of month he just had. If he keeps his hot streak going, the Phillies will be on top in the end.

The next two games both come down to how much the Phillies can hit the opposing pitchers. Tim Hudson is the Braves' ace, so even with a guy like Worley, who just finds a way to win every time he pitches, the Phillies need to get him runs. The same goes for Oswalt going against Beachy. Beachy has turned in a solid season so far, and will be tougher to beat than most would anticipate. If he keeps that up, he'll be tough to beat. Also, the heart of the Phillies' order has slumped lately. Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Hunter Pence have hit a rough spot in their seasons, and they need to correct it now if they want to win the series. The Phillies haven't overpowered teams with their offense lately. That can change at any time. But, as long as they hover around low run totals, then the Phillies might have trouble winning games this week.

The Phillies face the Brewers in a four-game series right after their series with the Braves.