After sweeping the Marlins, the Phillies (6-8) are in the midst of a demoralizing series against the Braves (10-4).
In Game 1, the Phils rallied from a 5-1 deficit in the eighth inning to take a 6-5 lead only to see it evaporate by a Dan Uggla grand slam in the ninth for a 9-6 loss.
In Game 2, Cliff Lee threw nine innings of one-run ball in 128 pitches and struck out 13 Braves … but the Phillies still lost, 1-0 (see story).
Now, Ryne Sandberg’s club will try to salvage something from this set in the finale on Thursday. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. (CSN) at Citizens Bank Park.
Here are five things you need to know:
1. No pain, no gain?
A.J. Burnett begins his first step of pain management.
The right-hander, signed by the Phils in the offseason to fortify their rotation, was diagnosed with a small inguinal hernia on Monday. It’s an injury that is manageable and Burnett plans on pitching through it (see story).
How he does so will be a key storyline to the Phillies' 2014 season.
“I’ve pitched with worse,” Burnett said. “I don't come out of games a lot. The other night was more of an uncertainty because I didn't know where it was coming from. I didn't know if it was hip, groin, whether I tweaked something or pulled something. Now that I know upstairs what I'm dealing with, I can deal with it a lot better.
“I threw [Sunday] and it was night and day better. It actually helped me stay within myself. That might be a blessing in disguise, you know?
“I’m more of a go-getter and I’m not really a take-it-easy kind of guy, so it’s going to be a test.”
2. Bring out the bats
The Phils’ offense has been a pleasant surprise thus far, but on Wednesday night, the bats looked like the ones the Phils used in 2013.
Last season, the Phillies were shut out 14 times. Last night, the Phils suffered their first blanking of the season as Julio Teheran picked them apart with a three-hitter.
It will be interesting to see how they respond after their worst offensive showing of the season. Wednesday’s loss was the first game in which the Phillies did not record a walk, so working counts on Thursday will be important.
3. Scouting Alex Wood
Braves left-hander Alex Wood’s repertoire consists of a low-90s four-seam fastball, mid-80s circle changeup and high-70s knuckle curveball that he learned from Atlanta relievers Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters.
Wood relies on getting ahead in counts and using his off-speed stuff as out pitches.
The 23-year-old is 2-1 in three starts this season with a 1.89 ERA and wins over the Brewers and Nationals.
Last season, lefties (.274) hit Wood better than righties (.259), but to start 2014, lefties are 1 for 12 (.083) against him.
4. Be ready, bullpen
Thanks to Lee’s nine-inning gem, the Phils’ beleaguered bullpen should be fresh coming into Thursday.
And there’s a strong chance the relief crew will be worked a bit.
Burnett has walked six batters in each of his last two starts, and he’ll be full-go with his hernia issue for the first time.
The Phillies' bullpen has an NL-worst 5.53 ERA and could be vital in Thursday’s series finale.
5. This and that
• Over the last three seasons, Burnett is 0-3 (three starts) vs. the Braves with a 6.48 ERA and a .328 opponents’ batting average.
• Six active Braves (Freddie Freeman, Chris Johnson, Jason Heyward, Uggla, Justin Upton, B.J. Upton) have homered off Burnett.
• Active Phils are hitting a combined .340 (16 for 47) off Wood.
• Atlanta is second in baseball with 21 home runs.
• Chase Utley is the majors’ second-leading hitter (.449). His 11-game hitting streak was snapped Wednesday.