The red-hot Atlanta Braves look to take another step towards a National League East crown when they visit the Philadelphia Phillies Monday in the first of a four-game series. Atlanta had its nine-game winning streak snapped by Washington on Sunday, while the Phillies come into this series having won their last two but going just 5-5 over their last 10.
Atlanta’s loss on Sunday dropped their lead in the NL East to nine games over Washington, while the Phillies sit in third place in the division, 14 games behind. Philadelphia is also in hot pursuit of a Wild Card spot, though they are currently tied with the Milwaukee Brewers at two games behind the Chicago Cubs, who hold the second Wild Card spot. Arizona is also ahead of the Phillies for the Wild Card, sitting 1.5 games behind the Cubs.
The moneyline for this contest has the Atlanta Braves +125 and the Philadelphia Phillies -135. The over/under for the game has been set at 8.5.
Finishing The Job
Atlanta has a division title in its sights, but it is also taking aim at the Dodgers, who sit 3.5 games ahead of the Braves for the best record in the National League. Looking to help Atlanta get a little closer to both goals is right-hander Mike Foltynewicz, who will get the start for the opener. Foltynewicz is just 5-5 on the season with a 5.28 ERA, but he has won his last four decisions, including going 3-0 since being called back up from Triple-A at the beginning of August. Over that span of six starts in August and September, Foltynewicz has lowered his ERA down from the 6.37 it was when he was sent down in late June.
Atlanta’s offense has been in high gear of late, averaging 6.4 runs over the last 10 games. Freddie Freeman continues to lead the team in most offensive categories, including batting average (.299), home runs (38), hits (164) and RBI (115). The Braves’ success lately has been despite a bit of a slump for All-Star Ronald Acuna Jr., who is batting just .154 in September with one home run and one RBI. Acuna is batting .280 on the season with 37 home runs and 93 RBI, so getting his dangerous bat going will be a goal for the Braves the rest of the way.
Needing A Run
Philadelphia has really been up and down over the last few weeks, losing two straight, then winning three in a row before dropping three straight prior to its current two-game winning streak. The Phillies have to find some consistency if they’re going to leap over some teams to get into the postseason. They’ll turn to Aaron Nola to keep the winning going, with the right-hander coming into this game with a 12-4 mark and 3.63 ERA. Unfortunately, Nola is coming off one of his worst starts of the season, allowing five hits and five earned runs over four innings to Cincinnati last week.
This is the time of the season that the Phillies got Bryce Harper, but Harper has been sidelined with a right-hand contusion he suffered when he was hit by a pitch on Friday night. Harper missed Saturday’s game and pinch-hit in Sunday’s win, but his status is still day-to-day. Philadelphia needs Harper’s bat, as he leads the team with 30 home runs and 101 RBI. Third baseman Maikel Franco has provided a bit of offense since being recalled from Triple-A, with four hits in his last nine at-bats, including a home run in Sunday’s win.
Philadelphia Ekes Out A Win
Atlanta has been playing well, but the division race is close to finished and catching the Dodgers doesn’t quite have the same urgency as just trying to make the playoffs. Philadelphia must be at its best in every game the rest of the way, and they’ll have the home crowd behind them. I’m taking Philadelphia -135 to get the series-opening victory.