Going into the 2011 season, the Braves were expected to be the Phils' primary competition for NL East supremacy, with a good number of prognosticators even predicting them to take the division. While it's still far too early to consider claiming a pre-emptive victory over such haters, there's no doubt that the Braves' start has not been what most have expected, nor what they themselves were likely hoping for for the season's first month-plus. Though they've improved things recently, with a five-game winning streak putting them back over .500, the Braves still sit at third in the division at 18-15, four and a half games behind the first-place Phils.
Not that there would ever be a good time to lose to the Braves, but now would be an especially good time for the Phillies to keep the gap between the two teams a sizable one as Atlanta travels up north for a weekend set in the City of Brotherly Love. The Phils are coming off possibly their most productive series of the season, as they swept the then-.500 Nationals, demonstrating their prowess on both sides of the ball as Cole Hamels, Vance Worley and Roy Halladay all picked up Ws with their quality starts, and the Phils' bats pushed seven runs across the plate in each of the last two games. Not an outright domination, perhaps, but three decisive victories against a team that's a little better than we thought they'd be, and that's nothing to sneeze at.
Tonight, Cliff Lee takes the hill against the Braves' Derek Lowe, the latter of whom will be making his second start since his much-publicized DUI arrest (he gave up four runs on six hits in five innings against St. Louis last Sunday.) Our boy Cliff has started off the season on mildly shaky ground, but he's coming off a good start on Sunday against the Mets (seven innings, one earned), albeit one that was wasted by an offensive power outage that saw the team score one man in 14 innings of gamete.
7:05 first pitch from CBP. How about the series that Raul Ibanez had against the Nats, by the way, with his combined eight base hits after suffering through the biggest dry spell of his career? ""He's got a shorter swing, quicker bat, he's staying on the ball, being selective," said Charlie Manuel of Raul's recent hot streak. "The biggest thing is he's getting hits." Yeah, no s---, Charlie.