Phillies-Braves: What you need to know

Phillies-Braves: What you need to know

July 6, 2013, 1:00 pm
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Phillies (42-45) vs. Braves (49-37)
7:15 p.m. – FOX

Friday’s series-opening win by the Phillies was the type this team just doesn’t get enough. Cliff Lee dazzled for six innings but fell apart in the seventh, when the heat got to him and he allowed four runs.

The Phils hung on to win, 5-4, marking the third time this season they’ve won when their starting pitcher allowed four or more runs. They’re 3-24 in those games. To compare, the Braves are 9-17 in such games.

It was also the first time in his last 59 starts that Lee earned a win despite allowing more than three runs. That says a lot about the run support the Phillies haven’t been able to give him in recent years and the blown leads by the bullpen.

On Friday, it was all good. Lee won, to give himself and Cole Hamels wins in the same cycle through the rotation for the first time in 87 games. On Saturday, the Phils can win the series early and inch closer to the top of the division.

Battle of sinkerballers

Kyle Kendrick (7-5, 3.59) faces Tim Hudson, who was supposed to start Friday but was pushed back a night.

Kendrick struggled in his last outing in L.A., allowing 10 hits and four runs to the Dodgers in six innings. That came after two brilliant performances in which he put just 10 men on base in 15 2/3 innings and generated 31 groundballs.

Kendrick last faced the Braves on Sept. 21, 2012, when he scattered five hits and two runs over 6 2/3 innings in a win. Kendrick has always had the Braves’ number – hes 7-1 against Atlanta with a 2.86 ERA in 85 innings. KK’s .241 opponents’ batting average vs. the Braves is his lowest against any team he’s faced more than four times.

The most familiar foe

Hudson (4-7, 4.22) hasn’t been himself this season. If the season ended today, he’d have the second-highest ERA of his 15-year career. His groundball rate of 54.5 percent is the lowest he’s ever had and is four full percentage points below his career average.

He’s been terrible away from Turner Field. At home, he’s 3-0 with a 2.68 ERA; on the road, Hudson is 1-7 with a 5.71 ERA.

This will be Hudson’s 29th career start against the Phillies. All have come since 2005 as a member of the Braves.

It’s been a mixed bag for the 37-year-old righty. He’s 10-9 with a 3.81 ERA against the Phils, but he’s allowed four runs or more to them 12 times in 28 starts. The Braves have won 16 of the 28 games Hudson’s pitched against the Phils.

Three of the last four times the Phillies saw Hudson, they chased him before he could record an out in the sixth inning. He allowed 14 runs in 13 2/3 innings in those three starts, and walked three batters in each game. The other start, he gave up just two hits and no earned runs over 7 1/3 innings.

Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins have seen more of Hudson than any other pitcher. Their numbers against the sinkerballer:

Howard: .328 BA, 7 HR, 17 RBI, 12 BB, 11 K, 1.112 OPS

Utley: .231 BA, 5 XBH in 80 plate appearances

Rollins: .222 BA, 10 XBH in 86 plate appearances

Eighth-inning formula?

Charlie Manuel used J.C. Ramirez to get two huge outs in the seventh inning in relief of Lee, and then turned to Antonio Bastardo for a scoreless eighth.

Ramirez struck out Justin Upton on a breaking ball to end the seventh-inning threat. His 95-97 mph fastball has missed plenty of bats so far, but he’ll need to further develop another pitch to stick in the majors. With two strikes against Upton, Ramirez first turned to another heater that the Braves slugger barely missed. Had Upton’s bat been a hundredth of a second quicker, we’d be talking about last night’s game in very different terms.

For Bastardo, it was his first 1-2-3 inning since June 1.

Crucial middle game

The Phillies have won a series opener 13 times this season, but in the game immediately following those opening wins they’re 6-7.

That’s a lot of missed opportunities at early series wins.