Considering that they play in the same division, it is slightly odd that the Phillies and Braves have barely played each other this season. While the Phillies have had several series against the Marlins and the Mets, they haven’t seen the Braves since a three-game set to open the season.
As a result, the two teams will be squaring off quite a bit in the second half of the season. This is both bad news and good news. It is bad news because the Braves are a talented team, and the games will be tough to win. It is good news because it gives the Phillies ample opportunity to make up the sizeable deficit in the division standings.
That gives this weekend’s series an added sense of importance. In that spirit, I will provide a quick preview of the Atlanta Braves, from a decidedly Phillies-centric perspective.
Braves Player Who is Not Entirely Horrible
It may seem like a foreign concept to Phillies fans, but young relief pitchers are capable of pitching well. In recent years, the Braves have called up several relievers to their rosters,and actually watched them succeed.
The most prominent of the Braves’ young relief core is Craig Kimbrel. The 25-year-old has solidified his role as the team’s closer recording a 1.72 ERA to go along with 23 saves in 26 opportunities.
Braves Player Who is Horrible
In the offseason, there were a few teams (including the Phillies) vying for the services of free agent outfielder B.J. Upton. It was easy to see the appeal, as Upton provided a tantalizing blend of speed and power. His 28 home runs and 31 stolen bases indicated that multiple 30-30 seasons could be in his future.
Unlike many of the other options on the market, at 28 years of age, Upton would still be in his prime for the majority of the deal. As a result, the Braves awarded him a 5 year, $75 million contract.
While he may still live up to his contract, the first year of the deal has been a disaster. Upton had never been a high average hitter, but the Braves expected better than the .175 average he currently carries. With 8 homers and 7 stolen bases, he’ll need a hot second half just to record a 20-20 season.
Reason for Optimism
Having Cliff Lee on the mound is always a positive sign for the Phillies, but check out this Tweet:
Cliff Lee in his last five outings against the Braves: 38 IP, 26 H, 3 ER, 36 K, 1 BB, 0.71 ERA
— John R. Finger (@jrfingerCSN) July 5, 2013
The Phillies are running out of time. If they don’t want to be broken up at the trade deadline, they’re going to have to win a lot of games. This series against the first place Braves would be a great time to start.