The Philadelphia Phillies currently reside in the basement of the National League East – which actually isn’t saying a lot, because they’re still just 6.5 games behind the Braves for first. In a weak division, first place can be won just by playing well against your division rivals, which the Braves have done in the past.
Today the Braves face off against the Phillies for just the second time this season, and if recent history tells us anything, it’s that the Braves might be in for more than they expect. Although they have won 11 of their past 20 vs the Phillies, the Braves have been in the upper echelons of the baseball world, while Philly have not.
The Phillies have managed to keep the Braves at bay with pitching that was almost seemingly employed to beat the Braves. Tonight’s starter Cole Hamels seems tickled to face the Braves: in 190 career innings (30 starts), Hamels has surrendered just 164 hits alongside 180 strikeouts, good for 14 wins and 3 complete games, 2 of the shutout variety. Yikes.
But the buck doesn’t stop there for the Phillies line of Braves specialists: Longtime Phillie Kyle Kendrick has been known for his strong play against his division foes, and although he isn’t the peripheral ringing pitcher of Hamels caliber, he has still enjoyed success against Atlanta. Over 96 innings in 21 appearances (15 starts), Kendrick has tallied a 3.28 ERA – good for 7 career wins. Kendrick will start game 2 of the series.
Thankfully not much lies beyond these two for the Braves this series. The Phillies bullpen has been much more solid than expected, but elite setupman Mike Adams is still battling injuries, and Antonio Bastardo has mixed results against the Braves historically. Closer Jonathan Papelbon is very much in the same boat as Bastardo – overwhelming at times, a launching pad for the Braves at others. The Braves won’t be out of too many games against this pitching staff as long as they stay patient.
The Philly offense has not been very good. Old jokes aside, their newest signee and current biggest slugger are 36 year old Marlon Byd and 35 year old Chase Utley, respectively. These two have combined for virtually all of the Phillies offense this season. Carlos Ruiz has been a solid piece, still getting on base at his usual high rate, but father time is zapping the little bit of power he once had, as he is slugging just .387. Ryan Howard is continuing his downward spiral that has followed him since tearing his Achilles in the final play of the 2011 playoffs for the Phillies. The Big Piece is only getting on base at a .319 clip – not what you want from your power hitter.
From there, Dominic Brown is proving why his path to the Majors was extended for so long. After an All-Star appearance and 27 homers last season, Brown is currently sporting a .588 OPS. For those wondering, it’s pretty much just as bad as BJ Upton in 2013. Ben Revere continues to be a speedy, defensive oriented leadoff man, with virtually no power and little discipline. As long as the Braves handle Utley, they should have little trouble outscoring them.
7:10 PM EST, Monday, June 16th
7:10 PM EST, Tuesday, June 17th
12: 10 PM EST, Wednesday, June 18th