The Phillies go to Atlanta to end their present three cities, nine games, road trip, as they return to the city where they have had their last good series. The first place Phillies (43-39) will face the fourth place Braves (40-43) for the first of three night games to be played at Turner Field. Tonight’s game will start at 7:00 pm Eastern. The floundering Phillies will send to the mound Kyle Kendrick (7-3, 4.59), who is coming off a dominating victory over the Athletics on June 25, where he pitched a career high eight innings, giving up only four hits, as he shut down the Athletics, in the Phillies’ 4-0 victory. He has already faced the Braves twice this year, pitching very well in both starts. His 2008 record against Atlanta is 1-0 with a no-decision, in a game which the Phillies would also win, as he pitched a combined eleven and a third innings, giving up only five earned runs on ten hits. Behind him, the Phillies are 12-4, the best record among all Phillies’ staters. He will be shooting for his eighth win of the year, while trying to set the tone as the Phillies hope to regain their winning ways before heading into the All-Star break. The Braves will counter with rookie Charlie Morton (1-1, 4.24), who is coming off a lost against the Brew crew on June 24, where he would pitch seven innings, giving up only two earned runs on seven hits in the Braves’ 4-1 lost. In his first three career starts, he has pitched seventeen innings, giving up only eight earned runs on seventeen scattered hits. He will be trying for his second win of his young career, while hoping to become yet another young pitcher who will be a future pain in the Phillies’ collective side.
The Phillies’ offense heads into Atlanta, hoping to forget what has gone wrong during their last six series, and try to regain what they were doing right when they swept the Braves here back in early June. Charlie Manuel’s explosive offense will see if a return to more familiar pitching will lead to a return to what the players know that they are very capable of, beating other teams’ pitchers into submission with their bats. Of course, to do that they will have to be more patient at the plate, staying away from first, second and third pitch swinging, and general bad batting selection while standing in the batter’s box, as well as staying aggressive on the basepaths once they do get on base, so that they can support the generally good starting pitching that they have been getting during their recent slide, good pitching that would most times be racking up wins if not for the team’s present general offensive slump. Jimmy Rollins especially needs to start thinking while he is in the batter’s box, and forgo swinging at the first pitch thrown at him, since they seems to be leading him into making mostly easy outs, and keeping him off the bases, so that he is unable to cause problems for the opposing team. If there is one silver lining coming out of what has just happened during the last six series, the Phillies should now know where the holes are, and have already started to decide what they will have to do to plug them up if they expect to get into the playoffs and beyond. Now, if Pat Gillick will be willing to pull the trigger on some trades by the end of the month, if they are not able to fill the holes up with some good players from within their minor league system.
The Phillies are now leading the Marlins by a half-game as the fish defeated the Nationals in the first game of their three games set at home. The Mets are now trailing the Phillies by three and a half games, as they lost the first of their four games with the Redbirds in St. Louis. The Braves trail the Phillies by four games as they prepare for their three games series with the first place Phillies in Atlanta. The Phillies will be trying to hold onto first place, hoping to recatch the lightening that had lead to their sweep of the Braves, while hoping that the Braves won’t be able to get revenge for that early June sweep.