The Washington Nationals were meant to take the NL East at a canter, but they find themselves behind both the Braves and the Phillies, who now meet for a three-game series that could see the division lead change hands.
Atlanta come into this series up 1.5 games in the standings and on the back of taking two of three from the Miami Marlins. Sunday saw them win in unlikely fashion as they overturned an early six-run deficit with an offensive explosion in the bottom of the ninth. The Marlins jumped out to their big lead thanks to a Lewis Brinson grand slam in the fourth. The Braves tried to chip away at the deficit with two runs in the bottom of the sixth, only for the Marlins to reply in kind. They entered the bottom of the ninth down 9-4, and then the runs started to come. There was a sac fly from Ronald Acuna Jr, Freddie Freeman reached on an infield single and an error allowed Albies to score. Nick Markakis singled Freeman home. On it went until Dansby Swanson brought home the tying and winning runs on a single to left and the best comeback of the season so far was complete.
The Phillies come into this series after getting a 2-2 split with the Cardinals. They lost Sunday's series finale 5-1 as Aaron Nola struggled to contain the Cards lineup. He allowed seven hits, including a homer, and gave up four runs in six innings. Meanwhile the Phillies lineup could barely tough Jack Flaherty. The only run came on a Rhys Hoskins solo shot as the lineup struck out 14 times in all.
Mike Foltynewicz (RHP) Vs. Nick Pivetta (RHP)
Foltynewicz enters his 10th start of the season with some career-best numbers. His 2.87 ERA, 10.9 K/9, and 0.8 HR/9 would all stand as the best of his young career by far if he were to maintain them through the season. He has made a few adjustments this season, mostly with pitch selection. He is throwing his slider and changeup a lot more than previous years, and it has a great effect on his contact rate. He is getting more soft hit balls and poor contact than usual. He also hasn't given up an earned run in his last two starts.
Nick Pivetta comes into his 10th start with some less impressive numbers, but in the context of his second season in the Majors he is doing very nicely indeed. a 3.72 ERA is little to write home about if you are 31 and chasing a Cy Young, but at 25 after having a 6.02 ERA last year it is wonderful. Pivetta has cut down on his walks and homers allowed, while seeing a slight uptick in his strikeouts and the quality of his pitches. The result is an ability to go through lineups like Baltimore's with ease, as he did in his last start. How will he fair against this young and explosive Braves lineup though?
|Braves Lineup||Home Runs||Batting Average||On-Base Percentage|
|Acuna Jr., LF||4||.264||.333|
|Phillies Lineup||Home Runs||Batting Average||On-Base Percentage|
Who's hot, and who's not
The Braves lineup is being powered by a lot of sources. Freddie Freeman is their superstar, and he's playing like it with a .370 average and four homers in the last two weeks, but he isn't the only one. Nick Markakis has a .315 average and a homer in the last two weeks, Ozzie Albies has three bombs in that time frame, and Ender Inciarte has three homers, five steals, and 14 hits in the last two weeks as well.
Odubel Herrera has been red hot for the Phillies. The center fielder has four homers, 16 RBI, and a .400 average in the last two weeks, while Jorge Alfaro is providing good offensive production from behind the plate. There is plenty of power too, with Carlos Santana mashing five homers and Cesar Hernandez having three in the last two weeks.
It's tough to say who will take this. The Phillies are playing well, but Mike Foltynewicz is the best pitcher in this game today. The Braves may have a let down after last night's heroics, and that could be a problem given how tight the margins are at the top of the NL East. I'll take the Phillies by two.