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Phillies vs. Braves series preview: An opportunity to close the gap

The 2019 All-Star break is drawing near. As of now, the Philadelphia Phillies (44-40, 2nd in NL East) stand 5.5 games behind the first place Atlanta Braves in the National League East. Can the Phillies take advantage and close the gap in the division? Let’s find out in the most important series of the season so far.

Pitching Match-ups and Start Times:

Tuesday 7/02, 7:20 p.m.: Aaron Nola (-108) vs. Dallas Keuchel (-102)
Wednesday 7/03, 7:20 p.m.: Nick Pivetta vs. Bryse Wilson
Thursday 7/04, 7:00 p.m.: Zach Eflin vs. Mike Soroka

If there is one thing to be envious of, it’s the Braves young talent in the starting rotation. The Phillies youngest and brightest starter, Aaron Nola, continues to find consistency this season, the rest of the young arms have followed suit. Zach Eflin has been the best of the bunch, but others, including Nick Pivetta, continue to remain unreliable for the Phillies. Looking over at Atlanta, that is not the case.

Now the first up in this series is the veteran left-hander Dallas Keuchel and after that is a back of the rotation 21-year old. But then looking at the series-ending matchup, the Phillies will get a taste of the talented young pitching the Braves offer in Mike Soroka.

Partly the young starting rotation is notable because of how dominant they have been. Another reason is because of the reality that the Braves will face this season. Can they rely on these young arms to stay strong for the entire length of the season? Will they be rested? It’s an important part of this NL East division race that needs to be highlighted. For now, the Phillies have to try and find a way past the talent of the Braves starting pitching.

What to Watch For:

It’s a question that is going to be answered, whether we like the result or not. Are the Phillies currently able to compete at a high level with the Braves? Atlanta has continued to get better this season with a strong lineup and the breakout performances from its young starting rotation. We will find out this week if the roster as it stands for the Phillies can stack up with the Braves.

We’ve already seen the Phillies falter against top teams this season. With series against teams like the Dodgers that did not go well, it’ll be interesting to see whether or not the Braves fall into that category of teams too strong for the Phillies to compete against. However, if the Phillies prove themselves against the Braves this week, does that encourage them to be active at the trade deadline?

It’s a question that Matt Klentak sort of addressed during his last appearance in front of the media. Klentak expects the core group of the Phillies roster to get them into a postseason. If the core proves that they are able to, which could be proven in this series, is that enough for Klentak to decide to go out and acquire the remaining pieces that the Phillies need to make a run at the World Series this season.

Prop Bets (from Monkey Knife Fight):

Game 1:
Dallas Keuchel – o/u 3.5 strikeouts – The Phillies strikeout often and a number this low should almost always be an over. OVER
Aaron Nola – o/u 5.5 strikeouts – Which Aaron Nola do we see? The Braves lineup is strong and Nola has not been great against good lineups this season. Not taking my chances here. UNDER
Total – o/u 10 – Keuchel is still working through things as he is only making his third start of the season, while Nola has struggled all season to find consistency. OVER

DFS Play: Scott Kingery

This is the kind of pitcher that Kingery has been mashing against this season. Scotty Jetpacks is the best option in this game, unless you want to pay up for someone like Freddie Freeman.

Other Notes:

There has been a sentiment of disappointment as the Phillies only have one All-Star in the upcoming MLB All-Star game. That lone All-Star is catcher J.T Realmuto, who may not be having his best season, but still is a top catcher in baseball. Now, usually nobody really cares about the All-Star selections because it is, quite frankly, a really dumb selection process. But of course, like Philly fans do, we need to find some way to make this a big deal.

This is not to say that I don’t overreact either, I mean, did you read the last headline I wrote? We all overreact or think strongly about things that just don’t have as much significance as we put on it. The Phillies aren’t second in the NL East because they only have one All-Star. Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins and Jean Segura have not been failures this season because they were not selected. Again, who cares.

While those three could be doing better this season, they are not the reason why the Phillies are currently 5.5 games back. That still falls on the lack of starting rotation and bullpen depth, and of course, these issues need to be addressed. So I ask kindly, please stop talking about the All-Star selection like it means anything , because it doesn’t.

You can follow Jon Jansen on Twitter (@jjansen34) and e-mail him at [email protected].

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