Look Ahead: Phillies vs Braves

As the NL East race heats up down the stretch, the final series before the All Star break is a crucial one for the fate of the NL East with the Braves visiting Citizens Bank Park. The Braves come to town only 2.5 games behind the Phillies, and the only team within striking distance of the fightins’ .

I think the entire key to the series will be pitching, all three days have stellar pitching matchup’s that will for sure lock these two teams up in low-scoring, defensive, well-pitched games all weekend.

The Phillies will face-off against the Braves right-handed rookie Brandon Beachy on Friday night. Beachy has put together a solid 2011 so far, 3-1 with a 3.23 ERA in eleven starts this season. But his career major league record is 3-3, and all three of those losses came at the hands of the Phillies.

Saturday the Phils’ will face Tommy Hanson, who despite good numbers so far this season, has been hit around pretty well by Philadelphia in his career. In six career starts Hanson is 1-2 with a 2.45 ERA in 29.1 innings pitched.

And then for the series finale on Sunday Derek Lowe takes the bump for the Braves. In the last three seasons Lowe has made four starts at Citizens Bank Park and has fared pretty decent at the hitter-friendly confines of “The Bank”, 2-2 with a 3.51 ERA.

For the Phillies, Roy Halladay is coming off of back-to-back complete games and is looking for his third consecutive complete game.

“He’s an animal,he’s a competitor. I’m definitely glad he’s on our side,” said team-mate Chase Utley about Halladay.

Cliff Lee, who is set to face-off against the Braves on Saturday is seeking his first W against Atlanta of the year. In two starts against the Braves this season Lee is 0-2 with 10.1 innings pitched and an ERA of 7.84.

Offensively, both teams both have injury problems. Shane Victorino is freshly on the DL and will miss the series, and third baseman ¬†Placido Polanco is also battling an injury an injury in his back which Charlie Manuel said is a “bulging disc” and Polanco said he is “day-to-day” .

The Braves on the other hand have Chipper Jones in the lineup, but may not be 100% after receiving a cortisone shot in his right knee on Wednesday. If he does play, he is a nightmare to the Phillies. In his career he has 45 home runs and is hitting .332 in 226 games against the Phillies.

I think the scariest stat heading into this series is that combined this season, Halladay, Lee, and Hamels are a combined 1-5 against Atlanta.

This series is very important to both teams, and pending on the outcome of the three games this weekend, the division lead could change hands.

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