Phillies-Braves: What you need to know
Phillies (37-49) vs. Atlanta Braves (45-39)
1:35 p.m. on PHL17
The Phillies lost again on Saturday to fall to 12 games under .500 and 14 back of the Washington Nationals for first place in the NL East. They are 11-21 against the rest of the division and 3-8 in those 11 series.
The Phils have lost nine of their last 10 games overall, as well as nine of their last 10 games against NL East foes. Ugly, ugly baseball.
At best, the Phillies can enter the All-Star break 13 games out in the division. At worst, they’ll be 15 back. Last season, the only three teams in baseball that entered the break 15 or more games back finished 28, 30 and 40 games out of first place.
The divisional deficit isn’t what’s most daunting... the alarm triggers from the gap between the Phillies and the “pretty good” NL teams. Consider that the Phils are as far behind the third-place Braves as the 42-43 Athletics are behind the Rangers, who are the second-best team in baseball.
This is a humongous hole. The Phillies need to go 52-24 the rest of the season just to finish with 89 wins. That’s a .684 winning percentage, which is equivalent to a 111-51 season. So, essentially, the Phillies need to play in the second half like a 111-win team.
There are three routes the Phillies can take in the second half:1.
Make one of the greatest comebacks ever to reach the playoffs,2.
Fall short of the postseason while playing well with all of their pieces, or3.
Completely remove themselves from contention and show the fanbase what folks in Houston have gone through in recent years.
In any event, here’s a look at the final game before the All-Star break. In this very game last year, the Phillies pounded the Braves 14-1 to head into the break 23 games over .500.Starting pitchers
Vance Worley (4-5, 3.46 ERA) faces Braves righty Jair Jurrjens (2-2, 5.19).
Jurrjens has made just seven starts this season. He was optioned to Triple A after allowing 17 runs in 16 1/3 innings in his first four starts, and was only recalled when it was announced that then-NL Cy Young candidate Brandon Beachy needed Tommy John surgery.
Since his recall, Jurrjens has looked like the Jair of old, allowing three earned runs in his 17 1/3 innings. The strikeout numbers aren’t pretty – they never have been for this righthanded sinkerballer – but when Jurrjens is on, he can induce some of the weakest contact you’ll see.
The Phillies have seldom been able to solve Jurrjens. He’s 5-3 against them with a 2.45 ERA in 11 starts. In eight of those 11 starts, Jurrjens has surrendered two or fewer earned runs. The Phils have just 51 hits off Jurrjens in 73 1/3 innings.
Worley’s last outing broke a stretch of four straight quality starts. He allowed 10 hits and six runs in four innings to the Mets in an ugly 11-1 loss.
Worley is 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA against the Braves in four games (two starts).Jurrjens’ repertoire
Jurrjens is a four-pitch righty. He throws a four-seam fastball, a two-seamer, a slider and changeup. His fastball peaks around 91 mph, though his velocity is down to the high-80s this season.
Lefties have hit Jurrjens hard this year, they’re batting .366/.430/.592 with three homers and seven doubles in 71 at-bats.Key matchup(s)
The Phillies will need Ryan Howard and Chase Utley to tee off. They’re hitting .250 combined off Jurrjens, but six of their 13 hits have gone for extra bases.
Shane Victorino has really struggled to make solid contact off Jurrjens, going 6 for 31 (.194). Victorino's season-long slump continues. He was 0 for 4 Saturday night and is now batting .245/.311/.369 on the season. Victorino's slugging percentage is 20 points higher than Juan Pierre's.
Worley’s toughest test could be Chipper Jones, the eight-time All-Star and future Hall-of-Famer who spits at pitches on the corners and usually gets the benefit of the doubt from the home plate ump. Worley’s game is so heavily dependent on his two-seamer running back over the inside corner to lefties or away off the plate that he could easily fall behind the savvy switch-hitter.
And then there’s Brian McCann, who’s homered in four consecutive games against the Phillies. McCann had just one home run in his 36 prior games against the Phils.Sound off
How would you fix this team? E-mail Corey Seidman at firstname.lastname@example.org