Phillies Schedule

Phillies in an enviable position to begin big weekend in Atlanta

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ATLANTA — Who would have expected when the Braves left town the first weekend of the season that when the teams next met, the Phillies would hold a nine-game NL East lead?

The Phils arrived in Atlanta on Thursday night with the biggest division lead in baseball. They’re shorthanded without Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber and J.T. Realmuto, but so are the Braves without Ronald Acuña Jr., Michael Harris II and Spencer Strider for longer-term absences. 

The Phils have gone 10-6 since ending their challenging road trip to London, Boston and Baltimore, winning four of five series and splitting the other. 

The Braves appeared to finally get on a roll in mid-June when they went 7-2 across three series against the Yankees, Rays and Tigers, but they’ve followed that by losing six of 10 to the Cardinals, White Sox, Pirates and Giants. 

The Phillies won’t see Chris Sale or Charlie Morton this weekend at Truist Park. The pitching matchups are Aaron Nola vs. Max Fried in Friday’s series opener, Ranger Suarez vs. rookie Spencer Schwellenbach on Saturday and Michael Mercado vs. Reynaldo Lopez on Sunday.

With a nine-game advantage, the only scenario this weekend that would harm the Phillies is an Atlanta sweep. Any other result and they’ll return home for the final week before the All-Star break with a division lead of eight, 10 or 12 games. 

“It's like any series, you're looking to go in and win a series just like we did here," Rob Thomson said on July 4 after the Phillies finished up at Wrigley Field. "They're a good club. They've got good pitching, and I know that everybody talks about how their offense hasn't clicked yet but they've got a powerful team. We've got our hands full. Just go get 'em."

The Phillies and Braves rank first and second in the majors in run prevention, allowing per-game averages of 3.63 and 3.66, well below the league average of 4.37. 

The Phils have been far better offensively, scoring 71 more runs than the Braves. That’s been the most surprising aspect of these first three months after an entire season of dominance from Atlanta’s lineup in 2023. So many players — Acuña, Matt Olson, Ozzie Albies, Harris, Austin Riley, Sean Murphy, Orlando Arcia — had career years they haven’t been able to repeat. 

Thomson’s mentality leading into the series is the same as it was flying into Chicago: Don’t wake up a scuffling offense. 

It’s fitting that Nola is on the mound Friday night because he seems to never miss a Braves series. More than a full season of his career, 36 starts, has come against Atlanta. That includes wins in each of the last two NLDS. Nola is 17-11 with a 3.48 ERA overall against the Braves, though he has a 5.34 ERA in his last 10 starts at Truist Park.

Fried didn’t make it out of the first inning at Citizens Bank Park in his first start this season, putting six men on base and recording only two outs. His year began with 10 earned runs in five innings but he has a 2.08 ERA in 14 starts since. 

The Phillies have won four of six games since Schwarber and Harper went on the injured list on Friday. They’ve scored 2, 2, 2, 5, 6 and 7 runs in those games. Schwarber (groin) could be back as soon as Tuesday and Harper (hamstring) doesn’t sound too far behind. 

In the meantime, the Phillies hope Nick Castellanos and Trea Turner can stay as hot as they’ve been. Castellanos has hit .377 over the last 16 games with six doubles, three homers and 13 RBI. 

Turner has gone 22-for-66 (.333) in 15 games since returning from the injured list with seven extra-base hits and 14 runs scored. His speed made a big difference in the series win in Chicago between an infield single, stolen base and tag-up on a flyball to shallow center. He’s hit just .200 with a .268 OBP against the Braves as a Phillie, so this weekend would be a nice time for him to impact the rivalry.

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