Braves-Phillies Preview

With a three-game lead in the NL East, the Philadelphia Phillies

have a chance to make their grip on the division much stronger when

they open up a three-game series against the visiting Atlanta

Braves on Monday.

Philadelphia (89-61) is the hottest team in baseball at the

right time, having won seven straight and 19 of 23 since Aug. 27 –

the best record in the majors over that span.

Jason Werth’s two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth Sunday

gave the Phillies a 7-6 win over Washington and their second

consecutive series sweep.

A big part of the Phillies’ recent success is due to their trio

of aces. Roy Oswalt, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels are a combined

16-6 since Philadelphia acquired Oswalt from Houston on July 29.

All three top starters are scheduled to pitch in this series.

Hamels (11-10, 3.01 ERA) will take the mound Monday, looking to

win a career-best fifth consecutive start.

The left-hander didn’t allow a run in any of the first three

starts of his win streak. He yielded a first-inning run to Florida

on Tuesday, snapping his scoreless streak at 25 innings. However,

that was the only run Hamels allowed in 6 2-3 innings of

Philadelphia 2-1 victory.

He struck out a season-high 13, continuing his bounce-back

season from a 2009 in which he posted a career-worst 4.32 ERA.

“He definitely feels much better about himself,” manager

Charlie Manuel said. “Last year, one of his biggest problems was he

had high expectations on himself and he never went through

adversity where he struggled and didn’t pitch good, but that’s part

of growing up at the major league level.”

Despite his strong overall turnaround, Hamels has had a hard

time against the Braves this season, posting a 1-1 record with a

6.39 ERA over three starts.

Atlanta (86-64) has taken seven of 12 from the Phillies in 2010,

including five of the last six.

Jair Jurrjens was expected to oppose Hamels, but a sore knee is

forcing him to sit out and that has prompted the Braves to start a

pitcher who has never appeared in the majors.

Brandon Beachy was at the team’s instructional league program in

Florida when he got the call to start this game.

The 24-year-old right-hander was 5-1 with a 1.73 ERA as a

starter and reliever for Triple-A Gwinnett and Double-A Mississippi

this season.

Beachy takes the mound with Atlanta leading the wild-card race

after Derrek Lee hit a go-ahead grand slam in a 6-3 victory over

the Mets on Sunday.

“There’s no secret. These are big games,” Lee said. “This is the

best part of baseball.”