Phils, Braves: Round Two This Weekend

Last weekend the Atlanta Braves were in town to take on the Phillies, and the Phils escaped with two out of three from that set. Since then, the Phillies have struggled. Vicente Padilla, with help from Gavin Floyd, made history by helping the Mets launch seven home runs Tuesday night, setting a Mets club record. Philadelphia's bats have been dormant since last weekend, scoring just 12 runs since last Sunday night. This weekend the Phillies travel to Atlanta for another showdown with the Braves.

Actually, both clubs have struggled since last weekend's dramatic series, and the road ahead for the Phillies looks like it's going to be hard for the club to get on the winning track this weekend. As a team, the Phillies have hit just .237 in the past week with just 6 home runs and 19 RBI. Keep in mind that all seven of the Phillies games last week were at home, in hitter friendly Citizens Bank Park. These stats are even more troubling when you take into consideration that the collective ERA of the Rockies pitchers who were on the mound on Wednesday and Thursday was 8.47. Yes, Atlanta also has lost two in a row, but they also faced the Houston Astros and red-hot Washington Nationals this week.

In the series opener Friday night, Brett Myers (1-0) who has been dominant all season long and shut out the Braves through eight innings last Sunday night will be on the mound for Philadelphia. Opposing Myers will be Mike Hampton who has been equally dominant this season, posting an undefeated record (1-0) and has recorded an ERA at a miniscule 0.87. This game is destined to be a pitcher duel against two lackluster offenses. The Braves have proven to have more firepower than the Phillies in recent years, and should pull this game out in a close one late in the game.

On Saturday, Randy Wolf (1-1) will be on the mound for the Phillies in search of his second straight victory. Taking the hill for the Braves will be Tim Hudson (1-0). Hudson, the newest pitching acquisition for the Braves who was traded this off season for mid-level prospects, has posted an astounding 0.87 ERA and has struck out 17 in three starts. How David Bell, Mike Lieberthal, Jim Thome and company will be successful against Hudson, when they struggled against the Mets and Rockies is yet to be seen? Wolf will have to pitch a near perfect game and get plenty of offensive help in this start if he hopes to escape with a win.

In the rubber match on Sunday, Vicente Padilla (0-1) will look to rebound from his rocky debut against the Mets this past Tuesday. Padilla got shallacked by the Mets, earning himself an ERA of 24.00 in the process. Granted, he is coming off of an injury, but it proved obvious that he was not yet ready to return to the starting rotation. It will be interesting to say the least, to see how he fares against the Braves. Atlanta will trot John Thomson(1-2) out onto the mound to take on the Phils. Thomson did not pitch in the series against Philadelphia last weekend, and will look to keep Phillies bats at bay this weekend.

Prediction: The Phillies flight Washington Sunday night will be a long one. The club's offensive struggles will continue this weekend against Atlanta. Charlie Manuel will be under the microscope against the tough Braves lineup, and the management of his pitching staff will be crucial. The Phillies simply will not have enough offense to come out of this weekend with even one win.

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