Around the NL East: Braves and Phillies are leading the way

Tyler Byrum
NBC Sports Washington
<p>The Washington Nationals, fresh off being swept by the Boston Red Sox, look to bounce back in a four-game series against NL East rival Miami Marlins. </p>

Slumping Nationals open 4-game set vs. Marlins

The Washington Nationals, fresh off being swept by the Boston Red Sox, look to bounce back in a four-game series against NL East rival Miami Marlins.

 

It is not just the Atlanta Braves that the Washington Nationals have to worry about anymore. The Philadelphia Phillies are threating to contend for the National League East.

Philadelphia survived a tough June to face an easy docket to end the first half of the season.

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With Aaron Nola pitching out of his mind, the Phillies are now tied for the lead in the NL East, a team that was supposed to be a year or two away. Now they are contenders, currently holding on a playoff spot in the National League. A young, talent-filled roster should allow them to become buyers at the trade deadline and try and take charge of the division.

Faltering, but seeing some improvement, the Nationals were unable to make the same jump as Philadelphia. Sneaking out as many wins before the break is pivotal for Washington.

Atlanta Braves

Record: 50-39
Last 10: 5-5
Upcoming Series: vs. Toronto Blue Jays (2), vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (3)

This past week was not kind to the Braves who went up against the hard-hitting New York Yankees and the NL-leading Milwaukee Brewers. Atlanta managed two wins, one against both opponents to avoid the sweep. That ended a 10-game road trip, proving that the Braves still have some work to do to become contenders.

Right now, they are looking at their starting pitching for their struggles. In their last six contests, Atlanta is 1-5. Their starting pitching holds an 8.33 ERA in that span. Two of those losses came from their most consistent arm in the rotation, Sean Newcomb.

Once thought of as a potential All-Star, the 25-year-old has not been able to dial in a win since June 16. Both of his most recent starts had him giving up five runs in fewer than four innings. With Julio Tehran sporadic in his command, that leaves Mike Foltynewicz (6-5) as the only reliable starter.

Despite the slide, Folty along with Nick Markakis, Ozzie Albies, and Freddie Freeman have the Braves leading the National League with four All-Stars. Albies, in particular, has kept up his recent turnaround with 30 hits in his past 15 games.

Just like the Nationals though, Atlanta is also wondering where the Phillies came from.

Ending the first half of the season with five games at home, all of the four pitchers in their rotation will get a chance to get it out of their system before the break.

Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 50-39
Last 10: 7-3
Upcoming Series: @ New York Mets (4), @ Baltimore Orioles, @ Miami Marlins (3)

Now begins a surge for the Phillies. After surviving an impossible schedule in June, Philadelphia is reaping the rewards of an easy schedule.

They should be able to ride this momentum right into the All-Star break even with all their games on the road.

Just to put into perspective their difficult schedule, Jake Arrieta (6-6) was winless in June but still sits at a 3.47 ERA. He got back in the win column with a win over Pittsburgh.

In this past week, in addition to going 5-2, All-Star Nola became the first National Leaguer to get to 12 wins. His WHIP sits at 0.98 on the year and in his two starts this week he pitched 14 innings, allowing eight hits and only one run.

This week the Phillies are looking to add another arm to a solid pitching rotation with Vince Velasquez on the DL.  Enyel De Los Santos, 22, will make his debut on Tuesday. With a 9-3 record and 1.89 ERA at Lehigh Valley, he is expected to be one of the top arms in the pipeline.

Oh and did we mention they're now tied for first in the division?

Washington Nationals

Record: 45-45
Last 10: 3-7
Upcoming Series: @ Pittsburgh Pirates (3), @ New York Mets (4)

Man, who would have ever thought that a 3-4 week would have a positive effect on the Nationals fan base.

After getting swept by the Red Sox at home, the Nats almost got blown away by the Marlins. Thankfully, Washington was able to erase a 9-1 deficit and turn it into a 14-12 victory.

The starting rotation is still something that needs to be solved.  In the past seven days, the starters produced an 8.73 ERA. Making only his second start since coming off of the DL, Jeremy Hellickson struggled allowing eight to come across in his one outing this week. Once a solid starter with a 2.13 ERA in the back half of the rotation now only has two wins and cannot pitch past five innings.

Speaking of coming off of the DL, catcher Matt Wieters and power hitter Matt Adams are back and have helped invigorate an offense that saw a surge from Mark Reynolds. Named the NL Player of the Week, Reynolds walked away with 1.997 OPS, 12 RBI, and three home runs for most of his duties against the Marlins.

Probably no signs of resurgence before the break, although playing the Mets will help. In the meantime, the Fan Vote for Trea Turner into the All-Star Game should help.

New York Mets

Record: 36-52
Last 10: 3-7
Upcoming Series: vs. Philadelphia Phillies (4), vs. Washington Nationals (4)

This week can go either really well for the New York Mets, or this will encapsulate their whole season to this point.

Hosting the Phillies and the Nationals give the Mets the chance to claw back into the conversation in the division.

Hopefully getting Noah Syndergaard back in this last week can help a little bit for a team that has no arms.

Miami Marlins

Record: 38-55
Last 10: 5-5
Upcoming Series: vs. Milwaukee Brewers (3), vs. Philadelphia Phillies

The Miami Marlins continue to play .500 ball and are trying desperately to not be the punching bag in the East anymore.

This past week they got some great production from their infielders (19 hits, five home runs, and 21 RBI), but their starting pitching got chased in nearly every contest this week.

And can we talk about Kyle Barraclough not being selected to the All-Star Game? That guy has a .119 batting average against in 40 innings pitched this season. It is idiotic that he did not get selected.

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