In one of the most anticipated series that the Braves have been involved in over the past five seasons, they travel to Philadelphia down by three games in the division. The Phillies have altered their rotation so that their best three pitchers will be starting against the Braves. Winning this series will be no easy task, but after a great three games in New York, this team may be able to handle all that the Phillies have to offer.
Jurrjens may not actually start the series opener. He tweaked his knee on Friday and will see how he feels in warmups. If he is unable to go, Brandon Beachy will get his first ever Major League start. The undrafted free agent has been a marvel this season and I personally have more confidence in him than Jair for this start. Jair has pitched awfully lately and we have already seen him unsuccessfully attempt to pitch through injuries. Hamels has had a tremendous season for the Phillies and is always a threat to throw a gem. This will be a tough matchup for the Braves, but they definitely have enough skill offensively to be able to put some runs on the board.
This is yet another tough matchup for the Braves, with the rookie opposing one of the top pitchers of this decade. Halladay is having another dominant season and could win the Cy Young in his first season in this league. Minor has been very effective in some starts and very hittable in others, but has been able to pound the zone and strike batters out consistently. He has had some poor luck on balls in play, as evident by his .381 BABIP, so I expect him to succeed if he continues to throw the ball how he has so far with the big club this year.
This is the most even matchup of the series, but it still favors the Phillies. Oswalt has been absolutely incredible since being traded, posting a 1.94 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and 7-1 record with Philadelphia. As mentioned when the trade occurred, Oswalt is 0-3 with a 7.58 ERA against the Braves for his career. If Tommy Hanson pitches as well as we all know he can, then the Phillies bats will be missing a lot of fastballs and breaking balls all night. Hopefully Hanson can get off to a hot start and get into a groove.
It's the usual suspects in Philly, with Jayson Werth, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard providing a majority of the offense. However, this season Carlos Ruiz has seriously stepped his game up. He has a .365 wOBA, which is just behind Brian McCann's .367 mark. The rest of their offense has been inconsistent, but Raul Ibanez has been scorching for the past 30 days, putting up a .383 wOBA with four homers over that time frame.
Overall, the Phillies rank third in the N.L. in runs with 714, just ahead of the Braves who have 701. Their .328 wOBA ranks fifth at .328 while the Braves rank fourth at .329. Despite all of the firepower up and down the Phillies lineup, they have performed very similarly to the Braves this season. Both lineups are top-heavy but have some players at the bottom who can produce.
Ryan Madson is far and away their best reliever. In 48.1 innings he has a 2.42 ERA, 2.41 FIP, and a 5.00 K/BB ratio. Brad Lidge is 23-for-28 in save opportunities but can blow up at any time. The bullpen is definitely their achilles heel at this point. If there is one facet of the game where the Braves have the clear-cut advantage, it is the bullpen. This puts the stress on the Braves hitters to be patient at the plate so that they can get the opposing starter's pitch count up. If they can keep the game close when both teams hand it over to the bullpen, then the Braves have a great chance to win.
This is definitely going to be a difficult three games and will be played just like a playoff series. Although they have the pitching advantage in each game, the Braves aren't just going to fold over and let that deter their motivation. Jason Heyward, Brian McCann, and Martin Prado need to lead by example in this series and show that these pitchers can be scored on. Each brings a different element to the table and they all have the potential to put themselves in scoring position regularly. If they step their games up this series it will go a long way in leapfrogging the Phillies for the division lead by week's end.