Just think of this as a warm-up to a title fight.
Back when boxing was mainstream, two top-ranked mashers with similar strength and talent would meet multiple times to decide ultimate dominance, and fans across the country would debate about who was the true champ.
The Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves have proven themselves as the elite teams in the National League this season, and their three-game series to close out the first half will give a glimpse as to which team is the best. It’s far from the last meeting between the two clubs, who could clash again in the postseason.
On paper, this series favors the Braves because they’re the hotter team and they’ve won four of their last six games against the Phillies. Atlanta is 14-3 since June 19, shrinking Philly’s lead in the division from 6 games to 2.5. With a sweep, the Braves could be in first place for the first time since Opening Day, and that momentum could keep them there.
Pitching has been the hallmark of both of these squads all season. The ace trios of Roy Halladay/Cliff Lee/Cole Hamels and Tim Hudson/Jair Jurrjens/Tommy Hanson each boast a record of 30-13, while the ERAs only slightly favor the Phillies (2.59 to 2.67).
The offense for both teams is about the same, as each has gone through its fair share of struggles this season.
What the Phillies need to worry about are the stellar relief arms of the Braves. Atlanta’s bullpen ERA of 2.64 is by far the best in baseball, and if the Braves get a one- or two-run lead late, their win probability shoots through the roof.
The Phillies aren’t taking any chances, throwing their big guns in each of the three games. They have the edge in Game 1 tonight, with Halladay going up against the young Brandon Beachy, who has yet to beat Philly in four starts. In fact, all three of his career losses have come against the Phightins’.
The Phillies need to win at least two out of three to maintain their cushion going into the break. This is the first of many challenges to prove that they’re still the best in the land.
Let's get ready to rumble.