Not many people could have predicted that the Philadelphia Phillies would be sitting dead last in the National League East right now. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are finally back in the lineup. Will it be enough to help this team make a serious run? Atlanta is still in pretty good position slightly above .500. Let’s take a look at this NL East showdown on FOX Saturday baseball.
The Atlanta Braves haven’t been playing particularly well of late, but they are still in striking position in the NL East. Atlanta’s offense has been as streaky as any in baseball so far this year. The Braves are averaging 4.59 runs per game, but they have had some great highs and terrible slumps. Michael Bourn has been terrific as the team’s leadoff hitter this year. Bourn is batting .307, and he has 23 stolen bases this season. Martin Prado leads the team with a .325 average. Andrelton Simmons has given the offense a nice boost over the last couple months. The Braves need Chipper Jones and Freddie Freeman to stay healthy to maximize their offensive potential.
Tommy Hanson has been the Braves most consistent starting pitcher so far this year. Hanson is 9-5 with a 3.70 ERA. He is 6-2 with a 2.89 ERA on the road. The lack of quality starts has really worn down the Braves bullpen this year. Atlanta ranks 27th in the majors in quality starts so far this season.
Phillies fans have to be excited to see Chase Utley and Ryan Howard back in the Phillies lineup. Unfortunately, the Phillies have dug a deep hole with their poor play this year. Thursday night’s tough loss at the hands of the Mets was just another heart breaker like the Phillies have experienced many times this season. The Phillies starting staff has been good, but the bullpen simply hasn’t gotten the job done. Joe Blanton has been the weakest link in the rotation. He is 7-7 with a 4.85 ERA.
While the Phillies offense has gotten a lot of the blame this year, they haven’t been terrible. Philadelphia is 8th in the majors in batting average. They have struggled with runners in scoring position, and those are areas where Utley and Howard should help. Carlos Ruiz is hitting .355, and he has single-handedly won this team several games already this year. Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins, and Placido Polanco are all having disappointing seasons thus far. Utley is hitting .304 in his first seven games since returning from the disabled list.
MLB Free Pick: Braves ML
The Braves are 5-1 in Hanson’s last 6 starts. The Phillies are getting back two offensive stars, but this team still has some real problems. Atlanta is the more complete team right now.