Philadelphia in enviable position to start big weekend in Atlanta – NBC Sports Philadelphia

ATLANTA — Who would have predicted when the Braves left town on the first weekend of the season that when the teams met again, the Phillies would have a nine-game lead in the National League East?

Philadelphia arrived in Atlanta on Thursday night sitting in first place in the Major League Baseball standings. The team is short on players due to the absence of Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber and JT Ralmotto, but so are the Braves, who are without Ronald Acuna Jr., Michael Harris II and Spencer Strider for longer periods.

The Phillies have a record of 10 wins and 6 losses since completing their tough trip to London, Boston and Baltimore, winning four of five series and splitting the other.

The Braves finally seemed to get their act together in mid-June when they went 7-2 in three series against the Yankees, Rays and Tigers, but they followed that up by losing six of 10 games against the Cardinals, White Sox, Pirates and Giants.

Philadelphia won’t see Chris Sale or Charlie Morton at Truist Park this week. The games will be Aaron Nola vs. Max Fried in the series opener on Friday, Ranger Suarez vs. rookie Spencer Schoellenbach on Saturday, and Michael Mercado vs. Reynaldo Lopez on Sunday.

With Philadelphia up by nine games, the only scenario that could hurt them this week is a win over Atlanta. Any other result would send them home in the final week before the All-Star break with an eight-, 10- or 12-game lead.

“It’s like any series,” Rob Thompson said after the Fourth of July game against Philadelphia at Wrigley Field. “You look to win a series like we did here. They’re a good team. They’ve got good pitching, and I know everyone’s talking about their offense not working yet, but they’ve got a good team. We’ve got our hands full. Just go get them.”

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Philadelphia and the Braves rank first and second in the major leagues in run prevention, allowing rates of 3.63 and 3.66 per game, well below the league average of 4.37.

Philadelphia was much better offensively, scoring 71 more points than the Braves. That was the most surprising aspect of these first three months after a full season of dominance from Atlanta in 2023. Several players — Acuna, Matt Olson, Ozzie Albaez, Harris, Austin Riley, Sean Murphy, Orlando Arcia — had career years they couldn’t replicate.

Thompson’s mindset heading into this series is the same one he had going into the game in Chicago: Don’t wake up a sagging offense.

It’s fitting that Nola is on the mound Friday night because he never seems to miss a series against Atlanta. He’s pitched in 36 games, more than a full season of his career, against Atlanta. That includes winning each of the last two National League Division Series games. Nola has a 17-11 record with a 3.48 earned run average against Atlanta, though he’s averaged 5.34 in his last 10 games at Truist Park.

Fred failed to close out the first inning at Citizens Bank Park in his first game of the season, putting six batters on base and recording just two hits. He began the season with 10 earned runs in five innings, but has a 2.08 earned run average in the 14 games he has started since then.

Philadelphia has won four of six games since Schwarber and Harper went down Friday. The team has scored 2, 2, 2, 5, 6 and 7 runs in those games. Schwarber (groin) could return as soon as Tuesday and Harper (hamstring) doesn’t look like he’ll be back for long.

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Meanwhile, Philadelphia will be hoping Nick Castellanos and Trea Turner can stay in the form they have been. Castellanos has a .377 batting average over his last 16 games, with six doubles, three home runs and 13 RBIs.

Turner has hit 22-of-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 Chicago’s series win between a home run, a stolen base and a fly ball to deep center. He hit just .200 with a .268 OBP against the Braves as a Philadelphia player, so this week would be a great time for him to make an impact.

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