Bullpens will be key in Braves, Phillies clash
ATLANTA -- The bullpens for the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies are headed in different directions.
The Braves have been getting some stellar work from their relief pitchers, while the Phillies' pitchers have struggled in that role.
Barring a complete game -- Atlanta has had one, Philadelphia has had four this season -- both teams are likely to go to the bullpen on Thursday, the final meeting between the two teams this year and Philadelphia's final trip to Turner Field.
Philadelphia sends right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (12-10, 3.78) to the mound against Atlanta right-hander Josh Collmenter (3-0, 4.19).
The Philadelphia bullpen has allowed 23 runs since Sunday. The bullpen has a 10.05 ERA since Sept. 15
"The bullpen just hasn't been doing the job," Philadelphia manager Pete Mackanin said. "At some point somebody has to do a job. Somebody has to step up. In two games, every reliever I've brought in has given up a run. That's unheard of."
The problem begins with closer Jeanmar Gomez, who has blown two saves in his last three opportunities. Edubray Ramos has been dealing with a slight elbow issue.
Luis Garcia, Severino Gonzalez and David Hernandez have been battered of late. Only Hector Neris has surpassed expectations lately.
The Atlanta bullpen has been a mix-and-match collection that has achieved success, especially in regards to preventing home runs. The relievers have allowed only seven homers since the All-Star Game and only 41 this season, fewest in the league.
The Braves have gotten good performances from Jose Ramirez, Ian Krol and Chaz Roe and have uncovered a solid setup man in hard-throwing rookie Mauricio Cabrera. Veteran Jim Johnson has solidified the closer role since Arodys Vizcaino went on the disabled list.
Hellickson will make his 32nd start of the season, his career high. He has started at least 27 games in five of his six full seasons in the major leagues.
Hellickson was roughed up in his last start against the Mets, allowing six runs in 4 1/3 innings. He is 1-0 with a 4.08 ERA in three career starts against the Braves. He last worked against Atlanta on Sept. 2 and received no decision after giving up four runs in six innings.
Collmenter has been a valued addition to the staff since he was acquired from the Cubs for cash on Sept. 16.
In two starts since joining the rotation, Collmenter is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA. He beat the Marlins on Sept. 22 and allowed two runs in seven innings. Collmenter is 1-3 with a 4.78 ERA in 12 career appearances, five starts, against the Phillies.
Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman will try to extend his hitting streak (30 games) and on-base streak (46 games). Freeman's hitting streak is the third-longest in Atlanta franchise history and his on-base streak is the longest since Gary Sheffield set an Atlanta record with 52 in 2002.
"You take it for granted with this guy," Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. "He's a machine. Pretty good."