Phillies, Braves ready for NL East showdown

Field Level Media

It's way too early to put any additional importance on the three-game series between Atlanta and Philadelphia that begins Friday, but both sides realize the battle lines are being drawn for a likely showdown between the two teams in the National League East.

The Braves, winners of seven straight, hold a 1 1/2-game lead over the Phillies as the three-game series opens Friday at Atlanta's SunTrust Park. The two clubs are expected to be the main contenders to win the division this season.

Atlanta will send left-hander Max Fried (7-3, 3.75) against Philadelphia right-hander Nick Pivetta (4-1, 4.93) in the opener.

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"It's a huge series for us," said Philadelphia catcher J.T. Realmuto. "We haven't been playing well lately so it'd be good for us to go out there and gain some momentum and who better to do it against than those guys, you know? It's definitely a big series for us."

The Phillies have lost eight of their last 13 games. They dropped two of three games against Arizona and did not play Thursday. The Phillies haven't played the Braves since sweeping a three-game series to open the season in Philadelphia.

Pivetta has turned his season around since returning from a stint in the minor leagues. He was optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley after posting a 8.35 ERA in his first four starts.

In three starts since being recalled, Pivetta is 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA. He pitched a complete game in his last start against Cincinnati on June 8, allowing one run on six hits in the victory.

"He's just on the attack more," Realmuto said. "He's working with the same stuff. He's just doing a great job of getting ahead of hitters and being able to put them away when he gets ahead. Early in the season, I feel like when he did get to two strikes, he wasn't executing down in the zone. He was leaving balls up a lot."

Pivetta has enjoyed much success against Atlanta. In nine career starts against the Braves, Pivetta is 4-1 with a 3.21 ERA. He started against the Braves on March 30, but allowed four runs in 4 2/3 innings and received a no-decision in a game the Phillies went on to win.

Fried bounced back on June 9 against Miami after posting one of his worst performances on June 4, when he allowed five runs in four innings at Pittsburgh. In his following start against the Marlins, he worked six innings and allowed three runs, striking out seven.

"That was the closest I felt to the beginning of the year, where I felt in rhythm," Fried said. "My tempo was a lot better and I was able to work down. I felt like it was a good stepping stone to build off of."

Fried will make his first career start against Philadelphia. He is 0-1 with a 0.93 in six relief appearances, allowing one run over 9 2/3 innings. Fried made two relief appearances against the Phillies in the opening series and pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings. He was then elevated into the rotation and has become one of the team's most dependable starters.

The defending N.L. East champion Braves are coming off a four-game sweep of Pittsburgh, something they hadn't accomplished since 1991.

--Field Level Media

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