Phillies at Braves
12:10 p.m. on NBC 10
How 'bout those Phillies? They're still seven games under .500 at 31-38, but after winning the series in Atlanta behind two well-pitched games Monday and Tuesday, the Phils are just 4½ games behind the Braves and Marlins and five back of the first-place Nationals.
The Phils now go for the sweep this afternoon. Here are five things to know ahead of Wednesday's matinee game:
1. Rare road sweep?
The Phillies have not swept a series on the road since April 26-28, 2013 at Citi Field against the Mets. That was 33 road series ago.
If the Phils win Wednesday it would also be their second sweep in their last three series overall.
2. Hernandez on the hill
Roberto Hernandez (2-5, 4.26) is the one Phillies starter who hasn't been able to go deep into games all season. But who knows, maybe the fine work from the starting staff will be contagious.
Since Sunday, A.J. Burnett, Cole Hamels and Kyle Kendrick have combined to pitch 22 innings and allow five runs. Now it's Hernandez's turn.
Hernandez has averaged 5.5 innings in his 12 starts and has not finished six innings since May 23 against the Dodgers.
He faced the Braves on April 14 and allowed just two runs over six innings despite walking six.
3. Harang is hittable
Aaron Harang has been reborn this year in Atlanta, but he's still hittable on a game-by-game basis and should not alone prevent the Phillies from sweeping.
Harang (5-5, 3.20) has made 12 quality starts in 14 tries and held his opponents to a .245 batting average.
None of his stuff is overpowering, but he has thrown six different pitches this season: a four-seam fastball and sinker at 90 mph, a slider, curveball, cutter and changeup. The slider is his off-speed pitch of choice. The opposition is 20 for 90 this season against it.
Current Phillies have hit .303 against Harang. Chase Utley is 10 for 22 (.455) with four doubles, a homer and three walks. Jimmy Rollins is 11 for 39 (.282). Marlon Byrd is 5 for 13 with a homer. Ryan Howard is 6 for 21 (.286) with three bombs of his own.
4. Braves basher
Howard homered in each of the first two games of the series to give him 13 on the year and 46 in his career against the Braves.
Those 46 home runs and 126 RBIs against the Braves have come in 143 games, nearly a full major-league season. Howard is also a .291 hitter against Atlanta.
He's now on pace for 31 homers and 106 RBIs.
Ten of Howard's 13 home runs have been either two- or three-run jacks.
5. Divisional matters
The Phillies head to St. Louis for four games after wrapping up the series in Atlanta, but after that they play 15 straight against NL East opponents.
Of the Phils' final 26 games before the All-Star break, 18 are against either the Braves, Marlins or Nationals, the three teams ahead of them in the division.
Which means this: As poorly as the Phillies have played for 70 games, all they'll need to do to be in good shape at the season's unofficial midpoint is play well for the next three weeks.
If the Phillies can win 12 of those 18 games against divisional foes, there's a good chance they'll be within three games of first place at the break.
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Phillies at Braves