Chase Utley and the Phillies face Dan Uggla and the Braves in a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies have been swept in their last two series against the Braves. (Philliedelphia/Kevin Durso)
There are two teams competing for the Postseason in the NL East. In years past, the Phillies have been contenders. This August, they are not. But in the past week, they will have faced both of those teams.
The Phillies took two of three games from the Washington Nationals last week. This week, they get to face the hard-charging, second-place Atlanta Braves for the third time in just over a month.
The Braves swept the Phillies in the final series of the first half of the season in early June. In a critical three-game series in Atlanta at the end of the month, just before the trade deadline, the Phillies were swept again, all but ending their attempt at a sixth straight division title and playoff appearance.
And that is rightfully so. The Braves are a dangerous team. Perhaps one of the reasons they are making a run is because this is Chipper Jones' last season before retiring. Maybe this is because of the bad memory from last season's end, especially for young stars Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward. And in the middle, there are several veterans. Brian McCann, Michael Bourn and Dan Uggla are just a few to name.
The Braves also added two pieces at the trade deadline: pitcher Paul Maholm and outfielder Reed Johnson.
This dangerous bunch faces the Phillies with three pitchers who have had their share of success against the Phils this season.
Here are the pitching matchups for the series.
In the opener, Vance Worley (6-6, 3.63 ERA) faces Ben Sheets (3-1, 1.46 ERA) - Worley allowed two unearned runs over seven innings and picked up the win in the Phillies win over the Nationals last week. In his career against the Braves (five games, three starts), Worley is 1-0 with a 2.37 ERA.
Sheets allowed three runs, his highest total of the season, to the Marlins and suffered his first loss of the season in his last start. In his career against the Phillies (nine starts), Sheets is 3-4 with a 4.50 ERA.
In the middle game, Cole Hamels (11-6, 3.34 ERA) goes against Mike Minor (6-7, 5.01 ERA) - Hamels looked much better in his start against the Nationals, but still suffered the loss as the Phillies could not find a way to score. Hamels allowed just three runs over seven innings in the 3-0 loss. In his career against the Braves (26 games, 25 starts), Hamels is 11-7 with a 3.75 ERA.
Minor didn't allow a run over 3 2/3 innings in his last start to the Marlins. He has won three of his last five starts, going 3-1 in that time. In his career against the Phillies (three games, two starts), Minor is 1-1 with a 3.09 ERA.
In the finale, Kyle Kendrick (4-9, 4.45 ERA) gets the start against Tim Hudson (11-4, 3.45 ERA) - Kendrick filled in admirably for Joe Blanton after he was traded on game day to the Dodgers against the D'Backs, allowing three runs in four innings of work. He would suffer the loss in a game the Phillies would lose 4-2. In his career against the Braves (17 games, 11 starts), Kendrick is 6-1 with a 2.28 ERA.
Hudson allowed one unearned run in 7 1/3 innings in a winning effort against the Astros. Hudson has won four straight games and hasn't lost since July 1. In his career against the Phillies (24 starts), Hudson is 9-8 with a 3.52 ERA.
August 6 - Phillies 7, Braves 6
August 7 - Phillies 5, Braves 2
August 8 - Phillies 1, Braves 4
I'm giving the Phillies a chance to win two games this week. Cole Hamels bouncing back is to be expected regardless of what happened in his first start since re-signing a huge deal against the Braves. Worley has also looked better of late and is facing a pitcher who, despite taking his first loss in his last start, is still due to be hit around a bit.
The Phillies offense needs to be the driving force. They have done very little damage against Braves pitching, and that has led to their six straight defeats.
The Phillies role now is to be spoilers. They can certainly do that against the Braves just as easily as they kept the Braves on the forefront on the NL East picture with their wins against the Nationals last week.
Kevin Durso is a contributor for Philliedelphia. You can follow him on twitter @KDursoPhilsNet.