Phillies-Braves: 5 things you need to know

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Phillies-Braves: 5 things you need to know

Phillies at Braves
7:10 p.m. on NBC 10

The Phillies jumped out to an early two-run lead Friday night in Atlanta but immediately gave the runs back in a 6-4 loss (see Instant Replay).

The Phils have lost to the Braves five straight times, and at 42-54 they are 11 games behind Atlanta (53-43) in the NL East.

Here are five things you need to know about the middle game of the series:

1. First night back
Seven of eight Phillies starters reached base in their first game back from the All-Star break. The Phils had just six hits, but it wasn't a poor night offensively.

Jimmy Rollins walked twice out of the two-hole. Chase Utley hit his first double (not counting the All-Star Game) since June 7. Ryan Howard drove in two runs with a sixth-inning single. Marlon Byrd saw 20 pitches in four plate appearances. Grady Sizemore had two hits and is batting .313 in four games as a Phillie. Cody Asche had an RBI single and a bomb to right field with the bases loaded that may have been a grand slam in some parks but was just a sacrifice fly at Turner Field.

And the Phillies went 3 for 4 with runners in scoring position. They entered play ranked 27th in baseball with a .229 batting average with RISP.

2. Jimmy stays patient
Rollins walked for the 44th and 45th times Friday. He is on pace for 76 walks, which would best his previous career high by 14.

Where was this patience earlier in Rollins' career? He's been more selective in 2014 than ever before and hasn't sacrificed power doing it. Rollins is slugging .389 a year after slugging .348.

3. Milestone approaching
With his next steal, Rollins will reach 20 stolen bases for the 13th different year.

Only 13 players have ever had more seasons with 20-plus steals: Rickey Henderson (23), Ty Cobb (17), Ozzie Smith and Lou Brock (16), Willie Wilson, Max Carey, Eddie Collins and Honus Wagner (15), and Kenny Lofton, Otis Nixon, Brett Butler, Joe Morgan and Bert Campaneris (14).

4. Hamels on the hill
Cole Hamels, whose name has been bandied about lately in trade rumors, makes his first start of the second half looking for that elusive fourth win.

Hamels is 3-5 despite a 2.93 ERA, a .235 opponents' batting average and 106 strikeouts in 107 1/3 innings.

You know about the run support. The Phillies have barely scored for Hamels and he's been forced to make pitch after pitch in tie games. But he's still having a brilliant season. 

Over his last 13 starts, Hamels has a 2.18 ERA and has allowed just 68 hits in 90 2/3 innings. The Phillies are 6-7.

This is his second start of the year at Turner Field against the Braves. He pitched seven shutout innings there on June 16 in a 6-1 Phillies win.

Hamels has faced the Braves more than he's faced any other team. In 32 games, he's gone 14-8 with a 3.41 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.

5. They've hit Harang
Hamels' mound opponent is 36-year-old Braves right-hander Aaron Harang, who is 9-6 with 3.53 ERA.

The Phillies have tuned him up in two meetings this season, scoring 11 runs on 24 hits over 12 innings. 

Byrd is 9 for 20 (.450) lifetime against Harang with three homers. Utley is 13 for 30 (.433) with four doubles and a homer. Sizemore is 11 for 25 (.440) with four doubles. Howard is 9 for 27 (.333) with two doubles and three homers.

All told, current Phillies have hit .349/.404/.559 against Harang.

Phillies' Darin Ruf could be facing quiet goodbye

Phillies' Darin Ruf could be facing quiet goodbye

NEW YORK — The final eight games remaining on the Phillies’ 2016 schedule will undoubtedly serve as a farewell to Ryan Howard.

Lost in the background may be the fact this week could quite possibly be the end for the man who was supposed to platoon alongside him this year, as well: Darin Ruf.

Both men have been supplanted by Tommy Joseph, who's hit 21 home runs in just 100 games this year while positioning himself as the Phillies first baseman of the near future.

Ruf will start Saturday night against Mets’ lefthander Sean Gilmartin. The Phillies are not scheduled to face a lefty starter for the rest of the season, so Saturday could be one of the final chances to see Ruf in a Phillies uniform, especially considering manager Pete Mackanin’s stated intent to give Howard more playing time down the stretch.

“It seemed like we never faced a lefty for the first month of the season. So that didn’t help Ruf at the time,” Mackanin said.  “Joseph entered the picture and made an immediate impression.”

Ruf’s departure from the majors set the stage for Joseph’s immediate emergence. At the time of his May 13 demotion to AAA Lehigh Valley – and Joseph’s promotion -- Ruf was had a .158/.206/.193 slash line.
  
Since his Sept. 1 return to the majors after rosters expanded, Ruf has done what he can to make sure his possible final season in a Phillies uniform ends on a high note. On Friday night, he drilled a home run to left center off Mets reliever Josh Smoker in pinch-hit duty, the first time Ruf had gone yard since Oct. 1, 2015.

“It felt good,” Ruf said about ending his home run drought. “You just try to simply things and last night it worked out for me.”

Where Ruf will be next year is a more complicated matter, as the 30-year-old is out of minor league options. Japanese scouts were spotted at the games he played for AAA Lehigh Valley.

With Lehigh Valley, Ruf received an opportunity he’s never truly been able to get with the Phillies due to the longstanding presence of Howard: a chance to play every day and consistently accumulate plate appearances. He hit .294/.356/.529 in 390 trips to the plate for the IronPigs. 

Ruf has never made more than 300 plate appearances in a major league season and would struggle to crack that number if he remains in Philadelphia as a backup to Joseph, who will still be 25 on opening day next year.

“I learned [this year] that you can’t take anything for granted in this game,” Ruf said. “You’ve just got to keep working to get better every day, got to put up numbers no matter where you’re at in order to get to where you want. 

“Hopefully, wherever I’m at next year, I can do that.”

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Tonight's Lineup: Jorge Alfaro catches, bats 8th vs. Mets

Tonight's Lineup: Jorge Alfaro catches, bats 8th vs. Mets

Jorge Alfaro is behind the plate for the Phillies tonight and bats eighth. Alfaro has appeared in just four games since being called up earlier this month, and has just one hit in 10 at-bats. 

Tommy Joseph is back in the lineup and batting fifth. Pete Mackanin has said that Ryan Howard would get a lot of playing time during the last few games, but it is Joseph who gets the start tonight. Joseph is batting just .154 against the Mets this season. 

Odubel Herrera, who has been hitting well in September, will remain in the three spot. He has two homers and is batting .391 over the past week. Herrera has two hits in six at-bats against Mets' starter Sean Gilmartin. 

Phillies

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Roman Quinn, RF
3. Odubel Herrera, CF 
4. Maikel Franco, 3B 
5. Tommy Joseph, 1B
6. Darin Ruf, LF
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Jorge Alfaro, C
9. Alec Asher, P