Braves-Phillies Preview

While early July may be too soon to label a game must-win,

Wednesday night’s series finale may be a vital one for the

Philadelphia Phillies as they pursue the Atlanta Braves in the NL

East.

The reigning two-time NL champion Phillies try to avoid a defeat

that would drop them six games behind the front-running Braves in

the division.

Philadelphia (43-39) is in third place in the East and trying to

regroup from a 6-3, 11-inning loss Tuesday. Raul Ibanez hit a

two-run homer in the first and Ryan Howard added an RBI triple in

the seventh to tie the game at 3, but the rest of the team had just

one hit as the Phillies lost for the fifth time in seven games.

A lack of clutch hitting has plagued Philadelphia in its recent

slump. The Phillies are batting .212 (11 for 52) with runners in

scoring position the last seven games, and Jayson Werth typified

those struggles – striking out looking after Howard’s no-out

triple.

“I don’t think you can hit if you don’t swing,” Phillies

manager Charlie Manuel said. “You got to score there. You have a

man on third with nobody out, you have to score period.”

While the offense works out of its funk, the Phillies will turn

to reliable veteran Jamie Moyer (9-7, 4.13 ERA), who will try to

beat the Braves (49-35) for a third time in as many starts this

year. The 47-year-old became the oldest player in major league

history to throw a shutout – a two-hitter – in his last outing

against them May 7.

“Jamie carved us tonight,” Braves slugger Chipper Jones said

after that game. “The guy is 87 years old and he’s still pitching

for a reason. He stays off the barrel. He changes speeds, changes

the game plan and keeps you guessing.”

Moyer, on the verge of his 16th 10-win season, is 6-9 lifetime

against the Braves. He had a three-start winning streak snapped

Friday in a 2-0 loss to Pittsburgh despite striking out a

season-high eight in six innings.

Jones is 8 for 24 with three doubles and a homer lifetime versus

Moyer and will try to help the Braves to their third straight

series win against a division rival. Matt Diaz likely will get a

second straight start in left field after going 3 for 5 and

providing the go-ahead RBI double in the top of the 11th.

“It’s definitely a fun park to hit in,” said Diaz, a lifetime

.333 hitter at Citizens Bank Park. “It’s one of the top two or

three parks to hit in. In fact, it’s probably No. 1. The ball

carries.”

Kris Medlen (5-1, 3.01) is undefeated since joining the rotation

in May, going 4-0 with a 3.10 ERA in 10 starts. He did not get a

decision Friday versus Florida, yielding one run in 6 1-3 innings

of a 4-3, 11-inning victory.

The right-hander has no record in three outings – including one

start – against Philadelphia in 2010, giving up three runs and 13

hits in 6 2-3 innings. Medlen made his first start of the season

versus the Phillies on May 8, allowing one run and nine hits in 4

1-3 innings of a 4-1 victory.