A pivotal series all tied up at one game apiece, the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves meet in the rubber-match today (7:20 PM ET Thursday).
When July came along, the Braves found themselves having opened up a strong lead in the NL East. Always in the race early on, by the start of June, Atlanta surged forward as the best team in their division as well as one of the best teams in baseball. The team finished with a 20-8 record in the year’s sixth month, doing so behind an offense that has been absolutely explosive up and down the lineup. While the Braves soared, the Phillies floundered, leading to the teams swapping places in the standings.
Opening up the season with a three-game sweep of those very same Braves, the Phillies burst out of the gate strong behind their own offense, which was poised to be among the best in baseball. For a while it was. Heading into June, it was Philadelphia that held the lead in the NL East, though by then, the team had begun to slump. Offensively, injuries hit hard as did low production from key contributors. Not to mention the pitching, which has been a real crutch for Philadelphia. As a result of an abysmal June, the Phillies, once the division leaders, entered this series with Atlanta down 5.5 games and needing to turn things around fast.
Heading to Atlanta, the Phillies were in desperate need of a win following yet another series loss to the hapless Miami Marlins. Plus, a loss to the Braves or multiple series losses, would have meant at best being 6.5 games back, at worst 8.5. Even with there still being almost half a season of baseball yet to be played, going down that far in the division would have been a tough road for Philadelphia to come back from. So the Phillies entered this series and game one, with their ace on the mound, and plans to put June and their slump behind them. That’s exactly what happened. Aaron Nola, despite having struggled and been up and down this year, pitched his best game of the season, shutting out the Braves in eight innings. Hector Neris finished the shutout with his 17th save. It was only the second time this year that Atlanta’s juggernaut offense had been held scoreless. For the Phillies, who only notched two runs of their own, this was just about as well as game one could have gone.
Game two however, held a different story. Nick Pivetta was on the mound opposed by Bryse Wilson, and neither pitcher had a great track record coming into the game. Though early on, both guys looked solid with the Braves and Phillies going scoreless through 3.5 innings. Atlanta, on the favor of a botched double play that put two baserunners on with none out, struck first against Pivetta as Josh Donaldson hit three-run home run. The Phillies managed almost to even out the score three innings later as Bryce Harper notched his 1,000th hit and 200th home run in the same swing. It wasn’t enough as in the bottom half of the sixth, the Braves scored six runs, including two home runs. The final score was 9-2 as the Braves quickly got their 5.5 game lead back.
Now, heading into game three, with just a handful of contests left until the All Star break, the Phillies are in what feels like a must-win situation. A loss to Atlanta would put them 6.5 games back in the NL East. It’s not an insurmountable margin, but with the way the Braves are playing, it is unlikely Philadelphia would be able to catch them. On that same token, Atlanta winning this series at home puts them in a really good position for the rest of the season. Right now, the Braves are clicking on all cylinders, something they would like to carry through after the All Star break. They are hot right now and finishing up the first half of the season in winning ways is definitely what Atlanta is set on.
While both teams have a few games remaining after they finish their series with each other, this is really the one to point to given its strong divisional implications. For the Phillies, it’s about turning their season back around. For Atlanta, it’s about being the ones to prevent Philadelphia from doing just that.
Our Preview’s Philadelphia Phillies vs Atlanta Braves Picks & Betting Predictions Verdict
The Braves are sending Mike Soroka to the mound to oppose Zach Eflin. While Eflin on the mound is normally a good thing for the Phillies, he will have his work cut out for him against one of Atlanta’s all stars. Soroka is a pristine 9-1 on the year with 67 strikeouts and a 2.13 ERA. It’s the lowest such ERA at this point in the season for a Braves starter since Hall of Famer Greg Maddux did it in 1995. Eflin has been solid as well, posting a 7-7 record with a team-best 3.34 ERA. This will be his first time facing the Braves in nearly two years, but in his previous appearances, Eflin performed well against the team, keeping Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis in low batting averages.
Eflin’s last three starts have been shaky, as he’s posting a 5.82 ERA in that span while Soroka has been solid all year long. The 21-year-old has shown no signs of his youth in just his second MLB season. He has been a better pitcher on the road interestingly enough, going 5-0 with a 1.29 ERA. He’ll be the home pitcher tonight, where he has still been good. In night games, Soroka has yet to lose and has a 2.03 ERA. Moral of the story, Soroka hasn’t stumbled and that shouldn’t be expected to happen this game or anytime soon. Looking at the betting lines with the major sports bookmakers accepting American clients, our Philadelphia Phillies vs Atlanta Braves predictions for this preview are: