Phillies-Braves Preview

The Atlanta Braves’ offense is struggling.

That hasn’t been the case against Roy Halladay this season, but

facing the Philadelphia Phillies right-hander now certainly doesn’t

guarantee Atlanta will start scoring more runs.

The Braves hope their first day off in three weeks and a return

home can help wake up their slumping bats as they meet Halladay and

the Phillies on Friday night.

Finishing a stretch of 20 games in as many days, the Braves

(74-57) completed a 4-6 road trip with Wednesday’s 8-2 loss to San

Diego.

The NL wild-card leaders, batting .211 over the last 12 games,

totaled four runs and struck out 24 times while dropping two of

three to the Padres.

“You’ve got to give a little credit to the Padres with the way

they pitched us,” manager Fredi Gonzalez told the Braves’ official

website. “But we’ve got to get it going a little bit.”

Leadoff man Michael Bourn is hitting .147 over the past 10

games, and slugger Dan Uggla is in a 5-for-38 slump.

The Braves have had few problems offensively against

Philadelphia (62-69) this season, averaging 5.3 runs while winning

nine of 12.

Atlanta has tagged Halladay (8-7, 3.88 ERA) for 18 hits,

including three homers, and 11 runs in two matchups this season –

both at Turner Field. He gave up season highs of 12 hits and eight

runs in a 15-13, 11-inning loss to the Braves on May 2.

Halladay, though, is 4-1 with 2.75 ERA in five August starts.

He’s pitched at least seven innings each time during that stretch

after going seven in Saturday’s 4-2 win over East-leading

Washington.

It was Halladay’s eighth start following a two-month stint on

the disabled list with a strained right lat.

“I think he’s on the right track now and will finish the year

strong,” manager Charlie Manuel told the majors’ official

website.

The Braves counter with left-hander Mike Minor (7-10, 4.71).

He received no run support in losing three consecutive outings,

including a 3-0 loss to Philadelphia on Aug. 7, before beating San

Francisco on Saturday as he gave up three runs in 6 2-3 innings of

a 7-3 victory.

“I was ecstatic about Minor’s performance,” Gonzalez said.

Minor is just 2 for 43 at the plate, but with the Braves’

offense slumping – the team has two runs in his two starts against

Philadelphia in 2012 – he may have to swing the bat better. He went

1 for 2 with a double, a walk and two runs Saturday.

“A lot of it I think was luck, but I did work a little bit with

(hitting coach Greg Walker) just about approach,” Minor said.

Braves catcher Brian McCann should keep the same approach

against Phillies pitching. The six-time All-Star is 12 for 36 with

six homers and 17 RBIs versus Philadelphia this season, including

two grand slams – one off Halladay on May 2.

Chipper Jones’ .526 batting average (10 of 19) off the

right-hander is his second highest against pitchers he’s faced more

than 17 times.

It’s uncertain if Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins will face

Minor after getting benched for the start of the seventh inning in

Thursday’s 3-2 win over the New York Mets following two baserunning

mistakes.

“You want guys to be able to go out and hustle,” first baseman

Ryan Howard said. “… It’s simple, be on time, hustle. That’s it.

That’s two things that you can control. Go out there and do it.

Charlie took care of it.”

The Braves took care of the Phillies’ in their last series at

Turner Field, sweeping three games July 27-29. Atlanta’s last

four-game home winning streak over Philadelphia was April 18-May 5,

2000.