Phils try to make up ground on Braves

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Of all the divisions in baseball, the National League East just might be the most competitive and toughest to predict. Hell, even the Miami Marlins had a stint in first place recently all by their lonesome.

Since then, the Atlanta Braves have taken the reins — as many expected coming into the campaign — on the top residency among the group, but everyone is still bunched up within just a handful of games. This weekend, the Philadelphia Phillies get a crack at the division leaders.

A year ago, these two East rivals played each other pretty evenly, with the Phillies going 10-9 in the 19 matchups. Thus far this season, they’ve split their four meetings. What do the next three encounters have in store? Let’s analyze the probables and try to figure that out.

Friday

Zack Wheeler vs. Max Fried: A stellar pitching matchup commences the series. Wheeler certainly is riding high after the general manager of his former team, the Mets’ Brodie Van Wagenen, questioned the large contract he gathered this past offseason to join Philadelphia. In fact, he’s already returning great value, being a perfect 3-0 through four starts, including a victory opposite his former team his last time out.

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Fried has also been strong in the early going, picking up where he left off from his breakout showing of a year ago. He, too, is unbeaten with a 3-0 mark, while also carrying a splendid 1.24 ERA and 0.90 WHIP. There seems to be no slowing down the talented young left-hander. UNDER

Saturday

TBD vs. Robbie Erlin: At press time Tuesday, both starters were not known. However, look for the Braves to roll with Erlin for the middle affair of this three-game set after his impressive first start of 2020 — and just the second one he’s made in the last two years. Erlin hurled four terrific shutout innings, so it’s academic Atlanta would want to move forward with the same plan his next turn.

The Phillies have a makeup doubleheader Thursday with the Toronto Blue Jays, putting their pitching plans in doubt for Saturday. Even so, if it’s some type of bullpen game, bettors will want to tilt toward the over. Philadelphia relievers have posted a brutal 8.77 ERA as a unit, easily the worst in the majors thus far. OVER

Sunday

Zach Eflin vs. Touki Toussaint: It has been a disastrous beginning for Toussaint in his first full Major League season in a starting rotation. The heralded 24-year-old holds a pretty bad 7.97 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in five games (four starts). While he’s also logging 11.95 K/9, it seems Toussaint still has work to do before getting in his desired rhythm.

Unlike his counterpart in this one, Eflin has looked just fine through his first pair of outings, collecting a 3.60 ERA and 15 strikeouts compared to only two walks. However, he gets a tough draw here against an opponent that had his number last year. Eflin faced the Braves four times and was tagged with a 6.61 ERA and 2.02 WHIP. His career 5.21 ERA and 1.43 WHIP on the road doesn’t have him well positioned, either. OVER

Last Week: 1-1

Season: 2-1

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