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Phillies hope to flatten floundering Braves

Time for another fight on the rickety NL East basement stairs.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies (18-14): The series win in Miami and the series loss in St. Louis are giving a clearer picture of this team's gimmick: The Phillies can win close games, and the Phillies will lose close games. But their make-up - a strong staff of strike-throwers, and an offense that can, at best, give them just enough run support - ensures that they will be playing a lot of close games. Except when they blown out.

The Braves (7-23): The Braves... The Braves just suck. All right? They're awful. Their manager is probably going to be fired soon.

Heavy Hitters

Freddie Freeman - Freeman is doing his best to electroshock the heart of the Atlanta offense, but the heart is so very, very small, like the Grinch's. I guess that's the best comparison to make to that lineup, really - the Braves offense is about as productive and intimidating as the carcass of a reclusive humanoid mountain creature, rotting for years without anyone willing or able to discover it.

Nick Markakis - Anyways, uh, yeah. The Braves are still sending guys to the plate, and of those guys, Freeman and Nick Markakis have been helpful. Markakis just had three hits and a walk in the Braves inevitable extra inning loss to the Diamondbacks, making his OBP (now .395) all the meatier. What sucks (for him) is that with Ender Inciarte returning from the DL, he may actually see a dip in playing time.

Andres Blanco - Once again, the apex predator of the Phillies bench pounced on an opposing relievers' offering late in the game, and then devoured him alive became instrumental in the Phillies' 6-5 win over the Marlins on Sunday. At this point, the Phillies can't trade him because they can't get their hands on enough tranquilizers to put him down for transport.

Tyler Goeddel - Well, it's up to you, Tyler. You get to decide if we stumble on "Tyler Goeddel rallies Phillies past Marlins" headlines in the distant future and think, "That's when it all began for Goeddel" or "Does anyone remember who the hell this man is." Or, "What are you doing, rifling through those scraps of newspaper, the marauding martian slavers will hear you." This is the distant future, remember.

Odubel Herrera - El Torito had five hits and a walk against the Marlins, the only batter to smack a base hit in all three of the games in Miami, making him clearly superior to potty-mouthed Bryce Harper.

Probable Pitchers

Adam Morgan vs. Matt Wisler

Well, I guess we're going to find out if Morgan can go over five innings this time, something he has yet to do this season. Granted, he's only made two starts, but in his last one, gave up three runs, six hits, and two walks to the  Cardinals. Pete Mackanin went out and got him after it took him 70 pitches just to get through 4.2 innings. Hopefully, everyone can use the weak Braves as a reset button.

Meanwhile, Wisler recently threw a one-hit shutout against the defending NL champs. But now he has to face Andres Blanco, something for which no man can prepare.

Jerad Eickhoff vs. Jhoulys Chacin

The middle nine innings of this series will feature Jerad Eickhoff taking on the guy whose name I have made it this far in baseball writing without even trying to say out loud. Despite his - or, the team's - recent loss to the Cardinals, Eickhoff gave another encouraging start, going six innings and allowing three earned runs, (a weirdly low) two strikeouts and two walks. His FIP was over a run lower than his ERA by the end of the game, and FIP, as we all know, is a strain of a largely benign cat virus. Solid starts? Disease-free? Everything's coming up Eickhoff!

Meanwhile, Chacin allowed four home runs in his last start, an 8-0 loss. The young Phillies like Maikel Franco who, of late, have been going up to the plate and flailing for the fences at anything with seams on it, may actually benefit from his presence.

Vince Velasquez vs. Aaron Blair

Human flamethrower and beating heart of the Phillies offense Vince Velasquez will be making his seventh start of the season on Friday. Where does the time go? It seems like just yesterday we were screaming and throwing our cats in celebration of VV's 16 K's against the Padres, and cursing out decryers of his accomplishment regardless of whether their comments were real or imagined. His 44 SO, 11 BB, and 2.17 ERA paint a pretty picture of the back of the Phillies rotation - Velasquez could burn a hole through this dry, flaky Braves lineup.

The second part of this analysis is that I have honestly no clue who 98% of the Braves are. Aaron Blair? Who the hell is Aaron Blair? He sounds like the snobby rich bully who taunts the protagonist of a movie about a secret treasure hidden at an uptight academy.

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