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How to win $1,000 on Braves vs. Phillies for free

May 8

By Kevin Cooney
Special to FOX Sports

The Phillies are heading to Atlanta to take on the Braves in a National League East showdown.

In the first six weeks of the season, there have been times when it feels like the NL East may devour itself.

The Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals have played a lot of games against one another, and all that remains is a twisted example of how good teams can make each other twist a division race into a pretzel in the early going.

The Phillies are atop the division with the only winning record as play began on Friday night. But these next three games in Atlanta — the second trip for Philadelphia to Georgia already this season — could outline how the rest of the reason is going to play. That includes Saturday night’s FS1 Game of the Week (7 p.m. ET), in which  Vince Velasquez will start for the Phillies against Braves ace Ian Anderson.

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In that spirit, here are six things you should know about the Phillies and Braves heading into Saturday.

1. Playing It Close

Entering Friday, the Phillies have become the king of the one-run game. Fifteen of Philadelphia’s first 32 games were decided by one run – the most in the majors – and they were 9-6 in that spot. They played seven straight one-run games up until Thursday’s 2-0 win over the Brewers. In 2020, Philadelphia was 8-10 in one-run games during the 60-game season.

2. Freddie Ain’t Free-man.

This has been a slow start to Freddie Freeman’s contract year. The defending National League MVP has struggled out of the gate to a .202 average, so far. 

However, Freeman loves facing the Phillies – he’s hitting .297 with a .889 OPS and 27 homers against Philadelphia in his career. This may be the place where he gets going.

3. Cutting The Bull

The Phillies' bullpen ERA of 4.98 is not good. It ranked 24th in the majors coming into Friday’s play, and the 5.38 ERA from the seventh inning onward is even worse – 28th in the big leagues. And yet, when the overall bullpen ERA in 2020 was 7.06 – the worst in almost 100 years in the Majors – things don’t feel quite as daunting for a team that just missed the playoffs because of that.

4. Lumber Slumber

Both the Phillies and Braves have failed to get any offensive fireworks going late in games this year. In the seventh inning onward, the Phillies have an OPS of .618 while the Braves have an OPS of .615. That’s 24th and 25th across the big leagues. When it comes to late-game home run power, the Braves have nine homers past the seventh inning while the Phillies have seven.

5. Give Me Relief

If the Braves are going to return to the playoff this year, it will be their bats and their bullpen that will carry them. Atlanta’s offense may be sleepy so far, and the bullpen has not been great either, sporting an ERA of 4.58 – 23rd in the big leagues.

6. Keeping An Eye on Harper

The Phillies have been without Bryce Harper for the better part of a week after he was hit in the face by a pitch in St. Louis 10 days ago. He did play Sunday night against the Mets, but then missed all four games of a sweep against the Brewers because of a sore wrist. He is listed as day-to-day as of Friday. 

With him in the middle of the order, the Phillies lineup looks completely different. 

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