Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies Series Preview: Short Road Trip

Cliff Lee can balance baseballs on his head while leaning to one side and standing on one leg.

The Braves will take a brief hiatus from their home stand and travel to Philadelphia for a three-game series with the division rival Phillies. This is the second meeting between the two, with the Phillies taking two of three in Atlanta in the Braves' home-opening series.

Little has changed since the Braves last saw the Phillies, but the Braves enter the series having won five in a row while the Phillies have won six of seven. So far, the Phillies are doing what most everyone had expected them to do, and that's stay on top of the NL East with dominant pitching. Their 21-9 record is currently tied for the best record in all of baseball and are 4.5 games ahead of the Braves.

Pitching matchups and more after the jump.

Friday, May 6: 7:05 p.m. EDT

Derek Lowe

#32 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves

6-6

230

R

R

Jun 01, 1973

Cliff Lee

#33 / Pitcher / Philadelphia Phillies

6-3

190

L

L

Aug 30, 1978

Lowe wasn't his sharpest in his first start after his DUI arrest, allowing four runs in five innings to St. Louis on May 1. He took the loss against the Phillies April 10 in Atlanta, allowing two runs in seven innings.

Lee is winless in his last three starts, but pitched well enough to win his most recent start, allowing only one run in seven innings to the Mets on May 1. The Braves hammered Lee for six runs in only 3.2 innings April 8 in Atlanta.

Saturday, May 7: 7:05 p.m. EDT

Jair Jurrjens

#49 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves

6-1

200

R

R

Jan 29, 1986

Roy Oswalt

#44 / Pitcher / Philadelphia Phillies

6-0

190

R

R

Aug 29, 1977

Jurrjens improved to 3-0 this season in his most recent start, tossing 7.2 innings against Milwaukee in a 6-2 victory on May 2. He hasn't faced the Phillies yet this year, but is 3-3 in nine starts with a 2.56 ERA against them and is even better at Citizens Bank Park: 2-1, 1.87 ERA in five starts.

Oswalt is making his first start since April 26 after helping his family cope with the recent tornadoes that struck near his home in Mississippi. He took the loss, his first of the season, allowing five runs in three innings and didn't strike out a batter against Arizona. He earned his first career win against the Braves on April 9, pitching the Phillies to a 10-2 win.

Sunday, May 8: 8:05 p.m. EDT

Tim Hudson

#15 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves

6-1

175

R

R

Jul 14, 1975

Cole Hamels

#35 / Pitcher / Philadelphia Phillies

6-3

195

L

L

Dec 27, 1983

Hudson was near perfect in his last start May 4, tossing a complete game, 1-hit shutout of Milwaukee and will be pitching on short rest. He outpitched Cliff Lee in the home opener April 8, leading the Braves to a 6-3 win. He's had his troubles against the Phillies, though: a 7-7 record and a 3.70 ERA. He's struggled even more at CBP: 1-2, 3.98 ERA in five starts.

Since his first start of the season when he surrendered six runs in 2.2 innings, Hamels has allowed a total of six runs in his next five starts - a 1.18 ERA over that span; one of those starts included shutting out the Braves for seven innings opposite Derek Lowe April 10. He's 10-5, 3.72 ERA career against the Braves.

PITCHING

Their starting staff has performed to expectations and currently ranks third in the NL in ERA (take a guess who's in first) and hold the NL lead in FIP at 2.85 compared to the 2.86 mark for the Braves. The Braves and Phillies are also 1-2 in the NL in opponent's batting average: the Braves have held batters to a .224 average and the Phillies, .231. Not surprisingly, the two pitching staffs are very alike, but the BABIP fairy has been kinder to the Braves; they rank fourth in the NL in BABIP at .274 while the Phillies rank 10th at .296.

The Phillies are without Joe Blanton and Jose Contreras; they have both been placed on the DL with elbow ailments and Vance Worley and Michael Stutes were recalled in their stead. So far, they've been very effective: Worley has allowed only one run in his 12 innings since being recalled and Stutes has four straight scoreless appearances under him. Ryan Madson has taken over the closer role with Contreras on the DL.

Also missing from the bullpen will be David Herndon, who was optioned to the minors to make room for the returning J.C. Romero from the DL. Herndon had struggled this year, allowing 11 runs in 10.2 innings while allowing a .350 batting average.

OFFENSE

Arguably the hottest Phillies hitter right now is Placido Polanco. He's posted .375/.418/.483 this season and only has FOUR games without a hit. As hot as Polanco has been this season, Raul Ibanez has been just as cold. Ibanez suffered through a miserable stretch where he compiled exactly zero hits in 34 at-bats entering the series against Washington, but showcased hints of turning it around: he was 8 for 12 with five extra-base hits and five RBI in the Phillies' three-game sweep of the Nationals. Despite the good series, Ibanez still sports a lousy .633 OPS. Like Polanco, Jimmy Rollins has also been swinging a hot bat: he's batting .366 (15 for 41) in his last 10 games. Shane Victorino, while not as hot as Polanco or Rollins, is still hitting .286 in his last 10 with three homers and .292 overall. Both Rollins and Victorino lead the team with seven steals.

The Phillies are without catcher Carlos Ruiz for an indeterminable amount of time. Ruiz has been suffering from some back ailments and hasn't appeared in a game since April 27; he had been hitless in his last 23 at-bats until then and was only hitting .226. Brian Schneider has been starting in Ruiz's place and is 5 for 15 in his four starts since Ruiz's injury.

OUTLOOK

Just like the home opener, winning two of three in this series will be tough, but the Braves have been swinging the bats well lately against some good pitching. Let's hope that continues.

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