The Braves are coming off of a 6-3 home-stand and head right into one of their bigger road trips to date. They will play three against the Phillies followed by three against the Mets, so they have a great chance to extend their division lead before the All-Star break. The Phillies have been reeling as late, going 4-6 in their past 10 and losing three-of-four to the woeful Pirates. The Braves are just 18-24 on the road, and both the Mets and Phillies have records over .500 at home, so the Braves will have to step their game as they close out the first half.
Monday 7:05 EST: Derek Lowe (9-6, 4.53 ERA, 4.25 xFIP) vs. Roy Halladay (9-7, 2.42, 3.04 xFIP)
Both Derek Lowe and Roy Halladay will be going for their tenth win tonight. While Lowe has seen his ERA decrease in each month of the season, Halladay has seen his increase. Despite giving up more runs in June than any other month, the Phillies' ace was still able to strike out 42 batters and walk just five in 44 innings pitched. Halladay currently has a 21.6 pRAA, good for third in the National League behind only Adam Wainwright and Josh Johnson. In contrast, Lowe's pRAA sits at -2.5. But, in 17 games vs. the Phillies in his career, Lowe has pitched rather well. Against the Phillies, Lowe has a 2.67 K/BB ratio, a 3.26 ERA, and has limited the Phillies to a .662 OPS against. Still, the pitching matchup obviously favors the Phillies. However, with an injured lineup, the Braves can definitely win this game.
Tuesday: 7:05 EST: Jair Jurrjens (1-3, 5.59 ERA, 5.16 xFIP) vs. Cole Hamels (6-7, 4.07 ERA, 3.82 xFIP)
This will be Jair's second start since returning from the DL and he hopes to follow up his best start of the year with another solid start against the rival Phillies. In eight games against the Phillies in his career, Jair has a 2.35 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. Hamels hasn't quite had the same level of success against the Braves. In his 16 starts against Atlanta, Cole has a 4.28 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP, but also has an 8-5 record. The Braves have 13 home runs against Cole and hope to tack on a few more to give Jurrjens some run support on Tuesday night.
Wednesday: 7:05 EST: Kris Medlen (5-1, 3.01 ERA, 3.79 xFIP) vs. Jamie Moyer (9-7, 4.13 ERA, 4.41 xFIP)
The last time the Braves faced Moyer, he threw a complete game shutout and allowed just two hits and no walks in the contest. Hopefully, the Braves can put that behind them and jump on the elder lefty who has had four straight impressive outings. Over his past four games, Moyer has a 1.86 ERA in 29 innings. Medlen has been impressive over his last four as well, pitching to a 2.64 ERA in 27.1 innings and has secured his spot in the starting rotation. Medlen has given up his fair share of homers this year though -- 9 in just 80.2 innings -- and Citizens Bank Ballpark is a noted home run haven. It will be important for Kris to keep the ball down and be careful against the big hitters like Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth.
All-Stars a plenty:
There are eight All-Stars between the two teams and potentially nine if Billy Wagner gets voted in via the final vote. Along with having three All-Stars in Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay, and the injured Chase Utley, the NL manager is the Phillie's Charlie Manuel. Manuel himself selected Tim Hudson and Omar Infante to the roster. After many scrutinized the Infante decision, it has been noted that the MLB asked Manuel to pick a multi-positional player and he saw Infante as the deserving member. The pick becomes much more sensible with this information available.
Elected All-Stars Chase Utley and Jason Heyward are both on the DL and will miss the series. Former All-Stars Placido Polanco and Nate McLouth are on the shelf as well. Polanco and Utley aren't expected to be back anytime soon, whereas McLouth may be headed for a rehab stint and Heyward will most likely resume baseball activities this weekend. Despite McLouth's poor season to date, he still has the potential to help this team in the second half.