Don't let the Phillies' 62-69 record fool you. They've won five of their last seven games, including a sweep of the Washington Nationals. Their 16-12 record so far in August will be their first winning month since May.
The biggest question for the Phillies will be how much playing Jimmy Rollins gets after being benched by manager Charlie Manuel for not hustling on a pop-up that New York Mets pitcher John Niese dropped. Manuel would not say whether Rollins would start the series opener Friday.
"I don't know. That's between Jimmy and I," Manuel told phillies.com.
The Braves, while holding a 9-3 record against the Phillies this year, have been going in the other direction after going 4-6 on their last road trip. Though Jason Heyward started the trip 12-for-29, he ended on an 0-for-10 skid, and Michael Bourn went only 5-for-35. Brian McCann, however, showed positive signs after a tough season so far with a 9-for-28 trip.
To make matters more difficult, the Braves are 24-27 against left-handed pitching in their Major League-high 53 games against lefty starters. The Braves drew Roy Halladay on Friday, who they touched for two homers and three runs in a win July 29, but the Phillies will send Cliff Lee on Saturday and Cole Hamels on Sunday.
Mike Minor will look for revenge for an Aug. 7 loss, when he gave up three runs in the first inning and lost a 3-0 game when Hamels threw a shutout. His 7-3 win over the San Francisco Giants was his first in four starts due in large part to a lack of run support. The Braves last saw Halladay on July 29 and touched him for two homers and three runs in a win, but Halladay has won four of his five starts since then.
Tim Hudson faces a suddenly resurgent Lee on Saturday. Lee is only 3-7 this season, but all of his wins have strangely come since July 4 after only having five total decisions through June. Hudson is fresh off a 7-1 win over the Giants on Aug. 26 and is 9-1 in his last 10 starts.
Paul Maholm will attempt to even his record with the Braves at 3-3 Sunday opposite Hamels. Despite owning a losing record as a Braves, Maholm has pitched into the seventh in all of his outings and has a 2.45 ERA since joining the club. Hamels currently owns a 12-7 career record against the Braves and shut them out on Aug. 7. His next week win will set a career-high of 15 on the year.
The Braves enter the series 5.5 games behind the Nationals in the NL East. The comfort is found in that out of 31 remaining games, the Braves only have six games left against teams with records over .500 – three against Washington and three against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Nationals have 12 games left against teams over .
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