The Braves return home after a disappointing 4-6 road trip to host the Phillies for the weekend. The Phillies are coming off a series loss to the Mets and a benching of Jimmy Rollins for not hustling out a pop-up. While the Phils aren’t clicking on all cylinders, the pitching matchups aren’t going to make it easy on the Braves.
Minor has lowered his ERA a-run-and-a-half since the beginning of July. He has allowed four runs in 15 IP against the Phillies this year, walking two and striking out 14. Halladay has had decent results since returning from his shoulder injury, posting a 3.74 ERA in 53 IP over eight starts. However, he has only walked six and struck out 45 over that stretch, so he’s pretty close to being back to something close to his dominant self. He hasn’t been great against the Braves, as he was the starter in the wild 15-13 Braves win at the beginning of May.
Huddy has been a Jekyll and Hyde act this month, throwing three great games and two bad ones. In his three starts against Philadelphia, he’s allowed eight runs in 17 innings. He hasn’t walked or struck out many, but he has allowed three homers. Lee is in the midst of an unlucky season, only 3-7 with a 3.67 ERA. He is also pitching better than the ERA indicates, running a 3.41 FIP and outstanding 3.13 xFIP. This will be his first start against the Braves this year.
Well, this series just gets tougher and tougher… Maholm has been outstanding as a Braves, outside of the extreme case of gopheritis. He made one start against the Phillies as a Cub, allowing one run in 6.1 IP, walking none and striking out one. Hamels has not felt any immediate pressure after signing his enormous contract, posting a 1.86 ERA in August, including back-to-back shutouts. The first of those shutouts was against the Braves, though Hamels struggled mightily two starts earlier against Atlanta, so he can be beat.
Offensively, there is a different cast of characters in the Phillies lineup. Despite having no cartilage in his knees, Chase Utley has managed to regain his old form as one of the best second basemen in the game. Kevin Frandsen has filled in for Placido Polanco at third, providing a nice BABIP-fueled line. Erik Kratz and John Mayberry Jr., Carlos Ruiz‘s and Shane Victorino‘s replacements, have been about average offensively. Ryan Howard has been below-average, striking out nearly 40% of his PA’s. Domonic Brown has not taken off yet, really making Philadelphia wonder about his future role.
One would think runs should be at a premium in the series, but predicting games is basically impossible. Both offenses have been faltering while a lot of good starters are taking their turns. If the Braves take two, they can take a deep breath and get some of the collapse thoughts out of their head. That being said, they’re facing three $20M pitchers and two of them are left-handed. The Braves are going to have to earn their way to the playoffs.