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Can’t win in nine: Phillies vs. Braves series preview

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The Braves have lost every nine inning game they’ve played this season - including three against the Phillies

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies
Zack Wheeler hopes to dominate the Braves’ hitters again
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

While it was awesome that the Phillies began the season with a series sweep over the Braves, we know from recent experience that a season-opening sweep over their division rivals isn’t necessarily a bellwether of how the season will go. In other words, the Phillies would be wise to win this series as well.

The last time they met

These teams squared off in a three-game set last weekend, and as mentioned above, the Phillies came out on top in each of the three games. The Braves were completely shut down by the Phillies’ pitching staff, scoring a grand total of three runs in the series. Braves fans maintain that their team actually hit the ball hard and were just the victims of some bad luck. One fan went as far as to claim the Braves should have won the series.

I’m admittedly not an expert on advanced stats, but I’ve searched, and couldn’t find a “should have won” column in any of the standings. Maybe they use different stats down in Atlanta?

Since then?

The Braves hit four home runs against Nationals’ ace Max Scherzer and still lost the game. They did rebound to finally win both games of Wednesday’s doubleheader, but since both of those games were only seven innings long, the Braves have still yet to win a nine inning game.

Not much offense

The Braves aren’t tearing the cover off the ball in the early going. They’ve scored 17 runs, and four of them have come courtesy of Pablo Sandoval home runs. That seems downright unsustainable if you ask me.

Of their regular starters, only Ronald Acuna and Freddie Freeman have on-base percentages over .300, and Freeman has only barely crossed that threshold thanks to being walked intentionally twice.

Quick look at the Braves’ scheduled starters

Charlie Morton gets the start on Friday, and he’s probably not happy to see that Zack Wheeler will be his counterpart for the Phillies. Not only did Wheeler’s dominance on the mound result in zero run support for Morton, but Wheeler also chipped in an RBI single against him.

Ian Anderson pitched well against the Phillies last weekend, but he had two things working against him: He only lasted five innings, and he was opposed by Zach Eflin who pitched better than he did. It’s too bad for Anderson that Eflin will again be on the mound, and making matters worse, Eflin is often paired with catcher Andrew Knapp.

Don’t worry, Ian. It’s possible that J.T. Realmuto gets the start, and that should be a HUGE break for you.

The finale will be handled by old friend Drew Smyly. I like Smyly, but I still can’t understand why the Braves rushed to give him $11 million. In his first start, Smyly was staked to a four-run lead, and with the help of some poor defense behind him, gave it all back within three innings.

Punchable face analysis

I’m introducing a new feature to these series previews where I’ll point out a player from the opposing team who has a particularly punchable face. I’ll start of with Braves’ pitcher Luke Jackson.

MLB: Atlanta Braves-Media Day Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

It looks like we have an intentional soul patch, which would be bad enough on its own, but made worse when combined with the uneven stubble on the rest of the face. Add in the unkempt hair and whatever is going on with those eyebrows, and this is definitely a face that could stand to receive a solid jab or two. Based on the half smirk on his face, it looks like he’s well aware of that fact.

See you in July? Nope

Based on the team’s hot start, it seems possible that multiple members of the Phillies will be headed to the All-Star Game this year. Two weeks ago, that would have meant another trip to Atlanta. Now...not so much. But at least they got these conspicuously altered jerseys for the trouble!

Trivia

The Braves’ Truist Park (which as I mentioned, will not be the site of the 2021 All-Star Game) opened in 2017. Who was the first Phillie to hit a home run there?

What to expect

I nailed this section in my preview of the Mets’ series, so there’s a very strong chance I go 0-3 here.

  • Sadly, the Braves will win a game, ending the Phillies’ undefeated record over them. Nothing lasts forever, folks.
  • Wheeler will dominate the Braves hitters once again.
  • Rhys Hoskins will continue to hit well, adding another home run.

Closing thought that may or may not be relevant to the series

The Braves are upset about losing the All-Star Game, but it seems more likely than not that after this controversy dies down, MLB will quietly schedule a future game in Atlanta.