Braves go for division title vs. Phillies

MLB

The Atlanta Braves will send young right-hander Ian Anderson to the mound on Thursday night as they go for the division-clinching win over the Philadelphia Phillies and a three-game sweep at home.

The Braves (85-72) expanded their lead in the National League East to 4 1/2 games over Philadelphia (81-77) with a 7-2 win on Wednesday.

Atlanta, which has won five straight games, has clinched a tie for the East title and lowered its magic number to clinch its fourth straight division championship to one game.

“The first game is huge, but in our situation winning this game (on Wednesday) was even more huge, to trim the number,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “We’ve still got to fight to win another game, but it’s big.”

The 23-year-old Anderson (8-5, 3.60 ERA) will be opposed by veteran Philadelphia right-hander Kyle Gibson (10-8, 3.60) in Thursday’s finale.

Anderson, the team’s No. 1 draft choice and third overall pick in 2016, has started four games against Philadelphia this season but does not have a decision against him. He has a 3.09 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings. In his most recent outing against the Phillies, Anderson threw seven scoreless innings on June 10.

He missed seven weeks with shoulder soreness after the All-Star Game. Since returning from the injured list, he is 3-0 in five starts, with a 3.76 ERA.

Gibson will make his 31st appearance and 30th start of the season. He last worked on Sept. 24 against Pittsburgh and did not get a decision after allowing four runs and three hits in six innings. He is 0-3 with a 7.16 ERA in five starts in September.

He has faced the Braves once in his career and earned a complete-game victory in 2016 when he played for Minnesota. He has not faced Atlanta this season.

The Phillies continue to struggle to score. In the two games against Atlanta starters Charlie Morton and Max Fried, Philadelphia has combined to score two runs in 14 innings, with 16 strikeouts. Fried outdueled Aaron Nola on Wednesday, and the Atlanta hitters scored four runs against the Phillies’ bullpen.

“It’s frustrating,” Philadelphia manager Joe Girardi said. “Nola battled his butt off, but we didn’t do much offensively against Max Fried … We just didn’t do much.”

Since Bryce Harper hit his 34th homer Saturday against Pittsburgh, the Phillies have only three extra-base hits, all doubles by Odubel Herrera. Even Harper, who is being pushed as an MVP candidate, went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts on Wednesday and saw his 23-game on-base streak end.

Atlanta hasn’t hit a home run in the first two games of the series, either. But Austin Riley continues to deliver — he had three RBIs on Wednesday — and Dansby Swanson went 3-for-4 with two RBIs.

The Phillies still need one win to clinch their first winning season since 2011. The season series between the two teams is tied at nine.

–Field Level Media

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