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News » Phillies-Braves Preview 2008-06-30

Phillies-Braves Preview 2008-06-30

Phillies-Braves Preview 2008-06-30
The Philadelphia Phillies are hoping the end of interleague play will also bring a close to their midseason struggles.

It would be hard to blame the Atlanta Braves for feeling a little less optimistic.

The Phillies will look to rebound from a dismal showing against AL opponents Tuesday when they visit the banged-up Braves, who will again be without the major league's leading hitter.

After a 5-1 loss to Texas on Sunday, Philadelphia (44-39) finished interleague play at 4-11, dropping all five of its series against AL squads and losing nine of its last 11 games.

"This is no time to feel sorry for yourself," manager Charlie Manuel said. "You need to kick yourself in the behind and get back up."

The Phillies' vaunted offense, which is second in the NL with 420 runs, has scored two or fewer runs seven times in the last 11 games. Over that span, Jimmy Rollins, Pat Burrell and Ryan Howard are all hitting under .180.

Chase Utley has shown signs of breaking out of his slump with four extra-base hits in his last two games, but he's still batting just .196 in his last 13 contests.

"We're not swinging the bat well," Utley said Sunday. "We had a few opportunities, but just not enough."

While Philadelphia's offense is at least healthy, the struggling Braves (40-43) remain unsure when Chipper Jones will be back in the lineup.

Jones, who leads the majors with a .394 batting average, hasn't started a game since June 20 due to a right quadriceps injury and could be headed to the disabled list.

"I don't think Chipper is close to playing," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said.

The Braves have also dealt with injuries to Yunel Escobar, Omar Infante and Mark Kotsay, but Escobar and Kotsay could both be in the lineup Tuesday. Without those four players, Atlanta dropped its last two games this past weekend in Toronto, managing only five hits Sunday in a 1-0 loss.

"Injuries have hurt us," catcher Brian McCann said. "You take Chipper out of any lineup and it's going to be different. We need him to get healthy for this push."

The Braves are still chasing Philadelphia, which has maintained a narrow lead atop the NL East despite its struggles. The Phillies have lost six consecutive series since sweeping Atlanta at Turner Field from June 6-8.

They're the only team to earn a sweep in Atlanta this season, as the Braves hold a 28-14 record at home - second in the NL to the Chicago Cubs. The Phillies, who also took two of three at home against Atlanta in mid-May, are one of just two NL teams with a winning record (22-21) on the road.

Kyle Kendrick (7-3, 4.59 ERA), who will start Tuesday for Philadelphia, has faced the Braves twice this season. The right-hander beat them at home after allowing three runs in six innings of a 5-4 win on May 13, and didn't receive a decision at Atlanta after giving up two runs in 5 1-3 innings during a 6-2 victory June 7.

Kendrick is coming off his best outing of the season, as he scattered four hits in eight innings and threw a career-high 113 pitches in a 4-0 win at Oakland Wednesday.

Atlanta rookie Charlie Morton will face Philadelphia for the first time. Morton (1-1, 4.24) has made three starts since he was recalled from Triple-A Richmond, losing for the first time last Tuesday when he allowed four runs - two earned - in six innings of a 4-3 defeat to Milwaukee.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: June 30, 2008

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