With a three-game lead in the NL East, the Philadelphia Phillies have a chance to make their grip on the division much stronger when they open up a three-game series against the visiting Atlanta Braves on Monday.
Philadelphia (89-61) is the hottest team in baseball at the right time, having won seven straight and 19 of 23 since Aug. 27 - the best record in the majors over that span.
Jason Werth’s two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth Sunday gave the Phillies a 7-6 win over Washington and their second consecutive series sweep.
A big part of the Phillies’ recent success is due to their trio of aces. Roy Oswalt(notes), Roy Halladay(notes) and Cole Hamels(notes) are a combined 16-6 since Philadelphia acquired Oswalt from Houston on July 29. All three top starters are scheduled to pitch in this series.
Hamels (11-10, 3.01 ERA) will take the mound Monday, looking to win a career-best fifth consecutive start.
The left-hander didn’t allow a run in any of the first three starts of his win streak. He yielded a first-inning run to Florida on Tuesday, snapping his scoreless streak at 25 innings. However, that was the only run Hamels allowed in 6 2-3 innings of Philadelphia 2-1 victory.
He struck out a season-high 13, continuing his bounceback season from a 2009 in which he posted a career-worst 4.32 ERA.
“He definitely feels much better about himself,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “Last year, one of his biggest problems was he had high expectations on himself and he never went through adversity where he struggled and didn’t pitch good, but that’s part of growing up at the major league level.”
Despite his strong overall turnaround, Hamels has had a hard time against the Braves this season, posting a 1-1 record with a 6.39 ERA over three starts.
Atlanta (86-64) has taken 7 of 12 from the Phillies in 2010, including five of the last six.
Jurrjens had collected four wins in a row before getting knocked around while losing his last two starts, giving up 11 runs and four homers in 8 2-3 innings. He yielded four runs and nine hits - two homers - over five innings of Tuesday’s 6-0 loss to Washington.
The right-hander is 3-3 with a 2.56 lifetime ERA against Philadelphia.
“There’s no secret. These are big games,” Lee said. “This is the best part of baseball.”