BRAVES (61-43) AT PHILLIES (54-49)
7:05 p.m. ET; NBC10, FSSO, MLB.TV
Hot-hitting Ronald Acuna Jr. will look to lead the visiting Atlanta Braves (-1.5) to a series victory in the middle game of a three-game set against the Philadelphia Phillies (+1.5) on Saturday.
Acuna had two hits and three RBIs in Atlanta’s 9-2 win in the series opener on Friday. In the process, he extended his streak of reaching base to 30 straight games, the longest active run in the majors.
The Braves had expected to have Dansby Swanson available for this series. However, the shortstop, who is hitting .265 with 17 home runs and 57 RBIs, could be out through Sunday with a sore right heel. Swanson hasn’t played since getting hurt Tuesday.
“It’s a little worse than we anticipated,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s a tough thing to play through.”
The Braves will hand the ball Saturday to Max Fried (10-4, 4.08 ERA). The left-hander hasn’t pitched since July 15, when he exited a start at Milwaukee due to a blister on his pitching hand. He subsequently landed on the injured list.
Fried had limited the Brewers to three hits in five scoreless innings before exiting from a game that Atlanta won 4-2.
“We caught (the blister) at a good time,” Fried told reporters. “It was a little sensitive in the beginning, but we just wanted to knock it out. So far, I’ve had zero problems. I’ve felt normal things since.”
Fried said that heat and humidity have been issues regarding his effectiveness while pitching with the blister.
“Any time it gets a little too hot or I get overheated, I can be susceptible,” Fried added.
Fried has faced the Phillies three times this year, once as a starter, getting no decisions while compiling a 7.11 ERA. In seven career appearances vs. Philadelphia, including the one start, he is 0-1 with a 3.77 ERA.
He will look to keep the heat on the Phillies, who came home following a two-game road series sweep at Detroit and looked flat in the series opener against the National League East-leading Braves.
The Phillies managed only two runs on 12 hits. Jean Segura led the team with three hits, highlighted by a solo home run. However, they weren’t able to capitalize with runners in scoring position, going 2-for-8.
If the Phillies are able to even the series, they’ll need an effective performance from starter Zach Eflin (7-10, 4.25 ERA).
The right-hander has struggled mightily in recent outings, going 1-3 with a 9.38 ERA in his past five starts.
Last Saturday, Eflin gave up five hits and three runs in four innings in a 5-1 loss at Pittsburgh. Following the defeat, he said his body had a “heavy feeling.”
“The stuff is just getting a little bit lighter or it’s been lighter than it was earlier in the season,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said of Eflin’s pitches. “I know that’s something that we have to pay attention to and talk about how to get his body feeling energetic and moving towards the plate with intensity all the way through his outing.”
Eflin’s velocity and location both have been off through his recent outings.
“It’s felt heavy for a little bit, but everybody feels heavy, you know,” Eflin told reporters after falling to the Pirates. “It’s something you go through during a season.”
Eflin is 2-1 with a 3.46 ERA in four career starts against the Braves, who hit him hard earlier this month. He gave up seven runs (six earned) on seven hits in three innings during a 12-6 loss at Atlanta on July 4.
–Field Level Media