After overtaking the Braves for second place in the NL East, the Phillies try to extend their lead and move closer to first as they continue a three-game series against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday.
Philadelphia (61-54) beat Atlanta 5-4 on Friday despite a four-run first inning against Phillies starter Cole Hamels. The Phillies answered with four runs in the bottom half of the inning, and Jayson Werth scored the go-ahead run on a throwing error by Atlanta shortstop Yunel Escobar in the seventh.
It was the Phillies’ fourth straight win against the Braves (61-55) after dropping five of their first six meetings against them. During its run, Philadelphia has outscored Atlanta 32-17 while batting .297 as a team.
Overall, Philadelphia has won 14 of 20 games since July 20 to pull one-half game ahead of Atlanta and three games behind the division-leading New York Mets, who lost to Florida 4-3 on Friday night.
“I looked at (third-base umpire) Bruce Froemming and said, ‘This is playoff weather,’” third baseman Wes Helms told the Phillies’ official Web site after playing on a cool Friday night in Philadelphia. “If we make the playoffs, this is what it’s going to feel like, so maybe somebody is telling us to get used to it.”
They may have to continue their pursuit of their first division title in 14 years without All-Star center fielder Aaron Rowand, who left Friday’s game in the second inning with blurred vision in his right eye. He’s scheduled to be examined on Saturday, and is listed as day-to-day.
For the Braves, Friday’s defeat was their second one-run loss against a division rival in three days. They suffered a 4-3 defeat against the Mets on Wednesday.
“It’s never fun losing,” catcher Brian McCann told the Braves’ official Web site. “But when you have a chance to win and a couple of hits come this way, it’s kind of harder to swallow.”
They’ll try to bounce back against Philadelphia starter Adam Eaton (9-7, 6.09 ERA), who has the worst ERA among qualifying starters in the NL.
The right-hander was tagged for six runs in 4 1-3 innings against Milwaukee on Sunday, but the Phillies rallied to win 8-6 in 11 innings. They haven’t won consecutive games with Eaton on the mound since June 6 and 11.
Eaton says he’s not sure why he has struggled.
“It’s ‘What is it? What is it?’ as opposed to, ‘It’s this,’” he said Sunday. “I feel good going into the innings. Coming out of the innings, I’m frustrated.”
Eaton is 3-2 with a 5.27 ERA in seven career starts against the Braves, but 1-1 with a 9.28 ERA in two games this year.
Chipper Jones is 5-for-11 (.455) with a home run lifetime against Eaton.
Atlanta will counter with Lance Cormier (0-2, 15.58), making his first major league start since June 8. He lost both of his previous starts this year in June, and allowed two runs and three hits in one inning of relief in Atlanta’s 9-2 defeat against Colorado last Friday.
Cormier, though, has a 1.17 ERA in seven career games, including one start, against the Phillies.
Atlanta’s bullpen will be without reliever Octavio Dotel, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Friday because of a right shoulder strain. Dotel, who was acquired by the Braves from Kansas City on July 31, had an 8.31 ERA in five games with the Braves after posting a 3.91 mark in 24 appearances with the Royals.