The once again second place Phillies (21-18) begin their six games home stand tonight as they meet the fourth place Atlanta Braves (19-18) for the first time this season. The first game of their three game set will be played at Citizens Bank Park, starting at 7:05 pm Eastern. The Phils will be starting Kyle Kendrick (2-2, 4.93), who is coming off his no-decision start against the Diamondbacks in Phoenix on May 7, in which he went six innings, giving up three earned runs on ten hits, in the Phils’ 5-4 come from behind victory. His previous start, against the Giants on May 2, was also a no decision, as he pitched six innings plus two batters, giving up three earned runs on eight hits, in the Phils’ dramatic 6-5 ten-innings victory. His last win was on April 26 in Pittsburgh, where he pitched seven innings plus two hitters, as he gave four runs, three of which were earned, on seven hits, in the Phils’ 8-4 win over the Pirates. Kendrick will be going for his third win of the year. While his ERA has slowly gone down during his last few starts, Kendrick has been trying to be a strikeout pitcher, like teammate Cole Hamels. Kendrick would be more effective if he just stick to what he does best, getting the opposing team’s batters to hit the ball on the ground and allowing his fielders to make plays behind him. Although a few balls will obviously get through, the defense should be good enough to handle most of the chances presented to them. His opponent, Jo-Jo Reyes (1-0, 2.25), will be the first of three lefties that the Braves will be throwing at the Phils for this series. Reyes is coming off of a no decision of his own, as he was taken out of his May 8 start against the Padres, after pitching only two and two-thirds inning, because he had developed a blister on the index finger of his right hand. Before he was taken out, he had given up two runs, one of which was earned, on five hits, in the Braves’ 5-4 win. His previous outing was a victory over the Cincinnati Reds on May 3, where he went five and one-third innings, giving up an earned run on four hits, in the Braves’ 9-1 blowout win.
The Braves will be throwing three left handers against the Phils for this three game set, Reyes, Tom Glavine and Chuck James, expecting them to keep the Phils’ batters off-balance. At this moment, the Braves’ thinking appear to be right, as the Phils seem to have a harder time going against left handed pitching then they do against right hander, hitting .235 (13th best) versus lefties, while hitting .253 (9th best) against righties. But looks can be deceiving as they have hit twenty-six of their doubles, one triple and twenty homers off of lefties, while hitting twenty doubles, two triples and eighteen home runs off of right handers. They have gotten almost as many total hits off of lefties as righties (102 vs. 110). They have as many RBIs against left handers as against right handers (56 to 59), as well as score as many runs (59 to 61). They have gotten more TBs off of lefties (190 to 188), as well as receive the same number of walks from both sides of the mound (47 each), but they have unfortunately struck out more often against left handers (97 to 80), something which they will need to cut down on during the season. This would appear to show that despite having a weaker batting average against left handers, the Phils can be dangerous to lefties, and it could be bad news for the Braves, especially as two of their lefties, Glavine and James, don’t seem to be very overpowering to the hitters this year based on their ERAs, especially Glavine, a future hall of fame candidate, who is at the moment still winless after five starts. But, you never know with the Phils’ batters.
The Braves, as they come to Citizens Bank Park, have the worst road record in the National League, being 5-14 after their spilt yesterday against the Pirates in a make-up doubleheader, winning the second game. Meanwhile, the Philles have a home record of 10-8, while winning their last two home series. So, this will be a series to see if the Braves will finally be able to win a series on the road, or if the Phillies will beat up on one of their divisional rivals, in spite of facing three straight lefties, while staying pace with the Marlins.
The Phillies are presently two and a half game behind the Marlins, who have lost the first of their four games set in Cincinnati. They are presently a half game ahead of the third place Mets, who have lost the first of their four games series in Washington, D.C. and are a full game ahead of the Braves who have just finished a series in Pittsburgh, losing three of four, which has cool them off after their six games sweep in Atlanta.