With Washington losing 4-2 yesterday, the Braves magic number to clinch the NL East is down to three, as Philadelphia comes into town for the final time this year. The Phillies have quickly tumbled out of playoff contention, falling five games back of the second Wild Card spot, and I’m sure there is nothing the Braves would like to do more than clinch the division against the guys who embarrassed them to open the season while simultaneously ending their slim hopes at reaching the postseason.
After a slow start in a Braves uniform, Dallas Keuchel has quickly turned things around and become the best pitcher on Atlanta’s staff. He toes the rubber tonight at SunTrust Park against Vince Velasquez of the Phillies. In Keuchel’s last six starts, he is 5-0 with a minuscule 0.87 ERA, as the Braves have won all six of those games. He pitched a week ago against Philadelphia and went six innings, allowing just three hits and one run while striking out eight in a 3-1 victory. Velasquez has been a part of the Phillies Achilles’ Heel – a struggling rotation that has not been able to find any consistency. He hasn’t made it out of the sixth inning since August 5th (six starts) and has a 7.20 ERA over that span.
Game 2 features Zach Eflin and Julio Teheran – both of whom lost last week when these two teams faced. Eflin was only able to make it through 3.2 innings, allowing three runs in a 12-8 loss. However, all three runs were unearned. Teheran had his first bad outing in a while, surrendering five earned runs via three longballs. He will take the mound Wednesday night hoping to bounce back and make his case for the starting rotation in the postseason.
The series finale will feature a matchup we all deserve to end the 2019 season against the Phillies, as Mike Soroka and Aaron Nola face off. The Braves ace was fantastic last time out, outdueling Max Scherzer in a critical matchup with the Nationals, shutting them out over six innings while allowing just one hit. His bid for the Cy Young remains intact, and another stellar performance against Nola would be a giant step in the race. Nola’s been a Braves killer over his career but did not have his best stuff when facing them last week, going six innings while surrendering four earned runs in a 7-2 loss. However, he did bounce back against the Red Sox on Friday with six innings of one-run ball.
The Braves will have an opportunity to clinch the division on Wednesday with a couple of wins and a Nationals loss. A sweep of the Phillies would do it as well, but regardless, it is a matter of time before it becomes official. Washington needs to be focused on making it to the postseason at all. While it looked like they had a Wild Card spot sealed up at one point, they are now only a game ahead of the Brewers and a half-a-game in front of the Cubs. It is becoming more-and-more likely by the day that the NL East might only have one team representing it, as the NL Central could find themselves with three.