Phillies try to remain in playoff hunt vs. Braves

September 21, 2018

ATLANTA -- Encouraged by the progress of their young pitchers, the Philadelphia Phillies decided not to add a proven starter to their rotation for the stretch drive.

Former Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta and 2018 Cy Young Award candidate Aaron Nola will start for the Phillies against the Atlanta Braves on Saturday and Sunday, but first struggling Nick Pivetta (7-13, 4.67 ERA) must take the mound Friday night.

It is almost a must win for Philadelphia, which fell behind the Braves by 6 1/2 games with an 8-3 loss in the series opener Thursday night at SunTrust Park. Atlanta's magic number for winning the National League East was reduced to four.

Veteran right-hander Julio Teheran (9-8, 3.97) will start for Atlanta (85-68) opposite Pivetta as the Braves try to put the Phillies (78-74) on the verge of elimination.

Philadelphia used seven relievers after slumping starter Vince Velasquez pitched just three innings to start the series, and the bullpen cracked late, giving up the tie-breaking run in the seventh and four more runs in the eighth as the Phillies fell to 6-12 in September.

Pivetta hasn't won since Aug. 7 and has lost his last four decisions, pitching just 13 1/3 innings in his three September outings.

On a more positive note, though, the 25-year-old Pivetta beat the Braves three times as a rookie in 2017 while posting a 2.12 ERA and was solid against them early this season, going 1-1 with a 3.43 ERA in four starts.

The Phillies also continue to point to Pivetta's swing-and-miss stuff. He fanned eight in five innings against Miami last Sunday, but was done in by a two-run homer from Pete O'Brien.

"I think the only hard-hit ball that comes to mind for me was the home run to O'Brien," manager Gabe Kapler said afterward. "Other than that, the curveball was working well, the fastball was working well, had a lot of life to it, obviously, getting tons of swings and misses on it. Looked like he was going to roll and just ran into a little bit of a buzz saw there."

Teheran had appeared back on track after an up-and-down season until he had a shaky outing in a loss to Washington last Saturday.

The two-time All-Star allowed six walks and was pulled after four innings despite giving up just three hits and two runs while striking out seven.

Walks have been Teheran's downfall all season. Opponents are batting just .198 against him, but he has surrendered 79 walks in 163 1/3 innings.

The 27-year-old from Colombia made his fourth consecutive start on Opening Day for the Braves this season, but his spot in a potential playoff rotation is far from a certainty.

"I haven't thought about that, but it is what it is," Teheran said after the loss to the Nationals. "We still need to finish strong. I've got a couple outings to go. I've been feeling good my last couple outings. It's getting there. You're going to have difficult games. But I feel like I've been doing better now."

Teheran was 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA in three April starts against the Phillies and is 9-6 with a 3.55 ERA in 22 career games, including 21 starts, against them.

Outfielder-first baseman Rhys Hoskins is 5-for-10 with three doubles against Teheran, while first baseman Justin Bour went 7-for-18 with a homer while with Miami before joining the Phillies.

Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte has gone 8-for-17 against Pivetta, but first baseman Freddie Freeman is just 2-for-15.