Friday, July 08, 2011

Crucial Series

Anyone who says the weekend set with Atlanta isn't a crucial series is seriously mistaken.

The two teams have met nine times thus far in 2011 with the Braves holding a 5-4 lead. Over the last five weeks the Braves have the best record in baseball. On top of that, they began the season on a losing note for the first month and have rebounded dramatically to close the gap with the Phils to 2.5 games. If the Braves take the series they leap into first place. If they take 2 of 3, they close the gap further. If the Phils win, they open a nice lead in addition to making a statement. Everyone in the Phils dugout knows what's at stake.

Atlanta's starting rotation is very strong; their bullpen is even stronger. The offense has sputtered as has the Phils', especially Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward. Should they rebound, the Braves throw a formidable lineup out there every day.

The Phils enter the series without sparkplug Shane Victorino, an enormous loss. They have their rotation set up perfectly with the big three ready to go. They also miss Jair Jurrjens, whose 12 wins lead the NL, and Tim Hudson. Apparently, Fredi Gonzalez didn't feel it necessary to set up his rotation for this series to have his top two available. Don't read too much into that. Gonzalez sees this as a big series, too.

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