Phils host Braves amid wild-card pursuit




The Philadelphia Phillies will look to keep their wild-card hopes alive when they host the National League East-leading Atlanta Braves in the opener of a four-game series on Monday.

Thanks to the Chicago Cubs' 8-5 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday, coupled with the Phillies' marathon 10-7 win in New York over the Mets, the Phillies and Brewers are both two games behind the Cubs for the second wild-card spot. The Arizona Diamondbacks, who also lost on Sunday, are in the mix, 1 1/2 games behind the Cubs.

The Phillies outlasted the Mets in 4 hours, 29 minutes on Sunday.

After dropping the series opener against the Mets, the Phillies rallied for two straight wins to remain within striking distance of the playoffs.

Despite inconsistency and some key injuries, they refuse to be whisked away from contention.

"We know that we've been written off, and we don't care. We understand that that's the sentiment and we don't believe it," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "We're going to keep fighting and clawing for every last inch."

Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper is expected to be back in the starting lineup Monday after sitting out two games with a sore left hand. Harper, who was hit by a pitch by Mets starter Steven Matz on Friday, did appear as a pinch hitter Sunday and drew a bases-loaded walk.

The Phillies will hand the ball to right-hander Aaron Nola, who's 12-4 with a 3.63 earned run average this season and 10-3 with a 2.46 ERA in 16 career starts against the Braves. On Sept. 4, Nola struggled and gave up five runs in four innings in a loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

"I really didn't have much," Nola said after that start. "I got a lot of guys to two strikes but I just didn't put them away."

But Nola owns a 6-3 mark and 2.58 ERA in his last 15 starts.

The red-hot Braves, who had won a season-best nine in a row, finally dropped a 9-4 decision to the Washington Nationals on Sunday. Following Saturday's win, the Braves had recorded 13 consecutive home wins for the first time since 1920.

Home or away, the Braves have been stellar the entire season.

"I think this series just shows we're a complete team," Braves catcher Brian McCann said of playing the Nationals. "We can beat you in any phase of the game. We can beat you with speed. We can beat you with pitching. We can beat you with the long ball late in games."

Despite Sunday's five-run loss, the Braves remain ultra-confident.

"I think we were all interested and excited to have this matchup to see where we're at," outfielder Matt Joyce said. "We've played really good baseball and we're excited."

The Braves will attempt to start a new winning streak with Mike Foltynewicz on the mound. Foltynewicz, who is 7-3 with a 3.14 ERA in 14 career games, 13 starts, against the Phillies, is 5-5 with a 5.28 ERA this season and has lasted less than five innings in two of his last four starts.

However, he was effective last Tuesday against the Toronto Blue Jays, allowing two hits and no runs in five innings in a 7-2 victory.

"The last couple of starts have been OK," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "I just like how he was under control of everything. The last time out, he got to rushing a little bit."

--Field Level Media

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