With the Astros and Mets in their rear-view, the Phillies will kick off a three-game set in Atlanta this weekend against the team many believe to be the biggest competition for the Fightins on their quest for a fifth straight NL East crown.
The Braves added some pop this offseason in the form of slugging second baseman Dan Uggla, which many believe gives their lineup a slight edge over the Utley-less Phillies.
Atlanta may have added Uggla, but the Phillies added Clifton Phifer Lee, who will make his second start of the season tonight. Advantage: Philadelphia.
Atlanta is off to a 3-4 start and is already looking up at the Phillies after only two series into the 2011 campaign. They've also struggled a bit against lefties in the early goings:
Atlanta is batting an anemic .193 (11-for-57) with 11 strikeouts and just one extra-base hit against lefties. So the prospect of facing Lee -- who was utterly dominant in his first start of the season -- and Hamels is a challenging one this weekend.
The Phils will go with their same lineup, with Benny batting fifth and Raul hitting sixth. They'll go up against Tim Hudson (1-0, 1.29).
It will be the first of what could turn into a nice little rivalry this season. The Phils know not to overlook the Braves this seaosn.
"You always have to watch out for Atlanta," Ryan Howard said after Thursday's game. "Uggla's no stranger to us, what he's capable of doing. It should be a pretty good series. We gotta go down there ready to play".
7:35 start from Atlanta. Never too early to start working on that divition lead.
In an interesting aside to this evening's game, the Braves will unveil a wild card banner at Turner Field, as the team that beat them for the division in 2010 sits across the diamond in the other dugout.
Here's a pop quiz for you: can you name the manager of the Atlanta Braves? Weird not having Bobby Cox around, isn't it? The answer is former Marlins skipper Fredi Gonzalez.