Phillies host Braves in key NL East contest


The red-hot Phillies will be looking for their sixth consecutive victory when they attempt a series sweep of the Atlanta Braves on Sunday night in Philadelphia.

The Phillies won their fifth in a row, 4-1, on Saturday as Rhys Hoskins had three hits, including a three-run home run. Philadelphia has won five straight for the first time since July 31-Aug. 5, 2018.

A sixth straight win Sunday would boost the Phillies (14-14) above .500.

Right-hander Jake Arrieta is scheduled to make his sixth start. Arrieta (2-3, 4.32 earned-run average) was sharp in his last outing, throwing five innings and allowing three hits and one run. He threw only 54 pitches before a rain delay ended his night against the Washington Nationals.

Arrieta is 6-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 10 career starts against the Braves. This season, Arrieta has been inconsistent but has started to locate his pitches better, especially in his start against the Nationals on Tuesday.

“The action was late on the sinker, the cutter was moving really good,” Arrieta said. “I threw some good changeups.”

Arrieta, a former NL Cy Young Award winner with the Chicago Cubs, is in the final year of a three-year, $75 million deal with the Phillies.

If Arrieta can regain his former form, the Phillies have a shot of reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2011.

“I can pitch at a really high level and I know that I’m capable of doing so,” Arrieta, 34, said.

Andrew McCutchen added a pair of hits in Saturday’s win and the ever-improved Phillies bullpen supported Zach Eflin with two scoreless innings, one each by Hector Neris and Brandon Workman.

The Braves’ lead has been reduced to two games ahead of the Phillies in the National League East. Sunday night’s game is the final one scheduled between the two on the shortened 2020 schedule.

It’s expected that the Braves will turn to Huascar Ynoa to start on Sunday night in what ultimately would be dubbed a bullpen game. Ynoa (0-0, 4.32 ERA) has appeared in four games this season with two starts.

Ynoa started Aug. 9 against the Phillies this season, surrendering one run in 2 1/3 innings, and holds an 0-0 mark with a 2.84 ERA in three career appearances against the team.

The Braves’ bullpen has pitched quite effectively in recent games.

Closer Mark Melancon did surrender a walk-off three-run home run to Scott Kingery in Friday’s 7-4 loss in 11 innings. But before that, Luke Jackson, Darren O’Day, A.J. Minter, Chris Martin, Will Smith and Shane Greene combined to toss six shutout innings on Friday.

Tyler Matzek and Grant Dayton threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings on Saturday.

“Not only do we have great arms, we have great dudes down there,” Greene said. “We understand that if we want to win the whole thing, the bullpen has to be a huge strength. We now have a chip on our shoulder to make sure we get the job done. We feed off each other’s energy. They say hitting is contagious. But I think pitching is just as contagious.”

The Braves, who are 6-10 on the road, were 47-34 last season.

Freddie Freeman singled on Saturday to extend his hitting streak to 12. Freeman appears to be regaining his All-Star form since recovering from COVID-19 symptoms.

“I’m starting to feel better and more comfortable at the plate,” Freeman said.

–Field Level Media

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