Braves take on Phillies with home-field in sites


The Atlanta Braves are fighting for home-field advantage this weekend at Citizens Bank Park. The Philadelphia Phillies are just trying to end their season-worst losing streak.

The National League East champion Braves and the Phillies open their final regular-season series of 2018 on Friday night in Philadelphia. The Braves (89-70) clinched the division with a win over the Phillies last Saturday and are hoping to gain home-field advantage in the NLDS with a few wins this weekend.

Right-hander Mike Foltynewicz (12-10, 2.88 ERA) will be on the mound against Jerad Eickhoff (0-0, 9.00), who is making his first and only start of the year for Philadelphia.

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The Braves will most likely face the winner of the NL West in the NLDS next week, and they had the same number record as the West-leading Colorado Rockies after Thursday's action.

The Rockies have surged into first place after sweeping the Phillies, who have completely collapsed in September. The Phillies (78-81), who were in first place and led the Braves by 1 1/2 games on Aug. 5, are 6-19 in September, in the midst of a season-worst eight-game losing streak and have fallen to third place in the division.

Philadelphia's skid started last Thursday in Atlanta, where they were swept by the Braves in a four-game series. The Phillies lost another four games to the Rockies at Coors Field and were outscored on the trip, 60-19.

"It's really bad baseball. There's no excuse for it, none at all," Phillies' first-year manager Gabe Kapler told reporters after a 14-0 loss against Colorado on Wednesday. "We all have to look ourselves in the mirror, individually and collectively, and figure out how to get better. And we have to do it right now."

Foltynewicz faced the Phillies in his last outing, and he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. He allowed just two hits and two runs in 7 1/3 innings at SunTrust Park, as he helped Atlanta get the win that clinched the division last Saturday.

"It was very different knowing what's at stake, but at the same time you can't get overhyped, like I tended to do in the past with bigger games," Foltynewicz told after the win. "To be able to do it in front of our home crowd was pretty special."

Foltynewicz, a first-time All-Star in 2018, has a 2.08 ERA in five starts against the Phillies this season and is 5-3 with a 3.39 ERA and 1.236 WHIP against the Braves' divisional foe in 12 career appearances.

Eickhoff, meanwhile, will be starting for the first time this year after his season was derailed by injuries. Eickhoff started the season on the disabled list due to a lat strain and his return was set back because of a nerve issue on his right hand. He was activated off the DL earlier this month and has made two appearances out of the bullpen.

Eickhoff, 28, made a total of 57 starts for Philadelphia in the 2016 and 2017 seasons. He has a lifetime 2.91 ERA against the Braves.

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