Braves-Phillies Preview

The first two games of this pivotal series with the Atlanta

Braves have gone exactly like Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie

Manuel had hoped.

To try to complete the sweep and essentially end the Braves’ NL

East aspirations, Manuel now turns to his third ace.

Roy Oswalt looks to win his fifth consecutive start and help the

surging Phillies trim their magic number to four in Wednesday

night’s series finale.

Entering this series with a three-game lead over Atlanta

(86-66), Manuel set his starting rotation so his top three pitchers

would face the Braves. Cole Hamels set the tone, limiting Atlanta

to one run in eight innings in a series-opening 3-1 victory on

Monday, and Roy Halladay became the NL’s first 20-game winner the

next night.

“It’s definitely special but the best part about it is it’s been

secondary for me,” Halladay said. “Being able to get to the

playoffs is the priority.”

With Tuesday’s 5-3 victory, the club’s season-best ninth in a

row, Philadelphia (91-61) increased its lead in the East to five

games and reduced its number to clinch a fourth straight division

title to six.

Jayson Werth hit a three-run homer Tuesday, and has been leading

the offense over the last week, batting .375 with five home runs

and 13 RBIs in the last eight games.

“The past two games were a total team effort on both sides of

the ball in clutch situations,” Werth said. “It’s the kind of ball

we’re accustomed to.”

While Halladay will receive strong consideration for the NL Cy

Young Award, Oswalt (13-13, 2.90 ERA) has been the league’s top

pitcher over the past six weeks.

After allowing five runs to Washington in losing his

Philadelphia debut July 30, Oswalt is 7-0 with a 1.55 ERA in his

last nine starts with the Phillies winning each time. The

right-hander’s ERA since the start of August leads the NL and his

.187 opponents’ batting average ranks third-best in the majors.

“(Oswalt’s) been everything I expected him to be,” Manuel told

the Phillies’ official website after the three-time All-Star

allowed one run and six hits in six innings in Friday’s 9-1 win

over the Nationals.

Oswalt will try to win five straight starts for the first time

since July 20-Aug. 13, 2007, against the only NL team he hasn’t

defeated – other than Houston.

The 10-year veteran is 0-3 with a 7.58 ERA in seven career

starts against the Braves. He hasn’t faced them since yielding six

runs in two innings in a 9-7 loss for the Astros last

September.

Although Atlanta has dropped 13 games in the East standings

since July 21, it can take solace in the fact that it’s still atop

the wild-card standings.

“Our focus is on winning (Wednesday) night,” said manager Bobby

Cox, who will give the ball to Tommy Hanson (10-11, 3.62).

Hanson gave up four runs and five hits in six innings in

Friday’s 6-4 victory over the Mets, earning just his second win in

14 starts. The right-hander did a good job of settling down after

yielding three runs in the second, retiring 13 of the final 14

batters he faced.

Hanson, who hasn’t won back-to-back starts since winning three

in a row May 26-June 5, has been sharp in two starts against the

Phillies this season, going 1-0 with a 2.38 ERA, but hasn’t faced

them since the end of May.