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
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.”