The Braves will venture into Philadelphia for the first time this season for a four game set with both teams fresh off of sweeps of division foes. The Braves, obviously, swept the Nationals while the Phillies took care of the Marlins this past weekend.
There might only be one hitter in baseball that is hotter than Freddie Freeman, and that’s Chase Utley. Utley hit the game winning home run yesterday to give the Phillies their sweep and is hitting .500/.565/.875 this season, good for a 291 wRC+. Wow. The key for the Braves this season will be to neutralize Utley as best as they can. Aside from Utley, Jimmy Rollins is raking as well and Carlos Ruiz seems to be back after having a very disappointing 2013. The only big new additions on the offense for the Phillies this year is Marlon Byrd, who the Braves saw a lot of last season when he was with the Mets. Ben Revere missed the whole Marlins series and the Phillies opted to have Tony Gwynn Jr. fill in for him in centerfield.
On the bench, the Phillies best bat is John Mayberry Jr. They have some quality defensive bench guys in Gwynn, Jayson Nix, and Freddy Galvis. Wil Nieves is the backup catcher, so overall the bench is not too strong of a bunch and is pretty right-hand heavy. That could be beneficial for the Braves late in games when the Phillies pinch hit.
The matchups for the series are as follows:
Monday, April 14 7:00pm ET (ESPN)
Tuesday, April 15 7:05pm ET (Tax Day!)
Wednesday, April 16 7:05pm ET
Thursday, April 17 2014 1:05pm ET
The way I see it, the Braves have a distinct advantage in games one and four, while the Phillies clearly have the better matchup in game two. That doesn’t mean a lot. For example, Aaron Harang just beat Gio Gonzalez, but it’s worth noting who the better pitcher on the mound is each day. Teheran is probably better than Burnett also, but A.J. was just amazing last season and he could have a lights out day at any time.
The bullpen advantage easily goes to the Braves. If there is one concern that the Phillies have this year aside from their advanced average age, it should be their bullpen. Jonathan Papelbon isn’t what he once was and behind him they just do not have that many quality arms. If the Braves turn these games into bullpen battles they should have a very good chance of taking the series.