With their 6-1 victory against the Philadelphia Phillies on Aug. 6, the Atlanta Braves have now won seven straight against the team that had been their kryptonite during the past several seasons. The surging Braves sit just three games back in the National League East behind the Washington Nationals, while the falling Phillies are now 11 games below .500 and are 17 games back, tied with the Miami Marlins for last place. When the two teams meet on Aug. 7, they will each send a left-handed starter to the hill, but which team has the edge?
The Braves will send Mike Minor to the mound for second game in the three game set. For the most part this season, Minor hasn't lived up to the expectations he set for himself when he had a solid Spring Training. He is 6-7 this season with a 5.01 ERA with 99 strikeouts and 44 walks in 116 2/3 innings. After watching his ERA get as high as 7.09 after a loss to the Marlins on May 16, Minor has bounced back and dropped his ERA more than two points. He has still had his share of shaky performances in the time since, but he is giving the team hope for the rest of the season.
Of all the current members of the Phillies, Minor hasn't had many difficulties. Chase Utley is the only player to hit a home run off the lefty and the only one with at least three hits. Minor hasn't had a lot of experience in his career against the Phillies, making just three appearances, but he has done well enough to give me hope for this game.
His opponent on the mound will be Cole Hamels. Hamels has been solid for the Phillies this season, going 11-6 with a 3.34 ERA. He has recorded 147 strikeouts with 40 walks in 145 2/3 innings, but has just one victory in his past seven starts. He hasn't pitched as well as he did in 2011, but none of the Philadelphia starters has, which is why they have struggled so much in 2012.
Hamels is 11-7 in 26 career appearances against the Braves, but struggled in his last outing. He went five innings on July 27, allowing five runs (three earned) on four hits and six walks in the Atlanta 6-1 win. In his career against current Braves, Hamels has had mixed success. Chipper Jones is hitting .324 with two home runs and seven RBIs, Brian McCann is hitting .278 with three home runs and 15 RBIs, and Martin Prado is hitting .313 with one home run and three RBIs. While those Braves have been successful, others haven't been as lucky. Freddie Freeman is hitting just .235, Jason Heyward is hitting .200 and Dan Uggla has had the most issues against him, going 8-for-55 (.145).
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Hobson Lopes has been a life-long Atlanta Braves fan, thanks to TBS, and can be followed on Twitter @HobsonLopes.
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- Cole Hamels