What to know in PHI-ATL battle for NL East

September 27th, 2021

The Braves and Phillies are two National League East rivals chasing the same prize this week at Truist Park.

The teams open a three-game series on Tuesday night in Atlanta, with the Braves holding a 2 1/2-game lead in their quest for a fourth consecutive NL East title. The Phillies, meanwhile, have their backs against the wall as they try to win their first division title since 2011. The Braves' magic number is at five, meaning any combination of five Braves wins and Phillies losses would give Atlanta the title. FanGraphs gives the Braves an 87.3 percent chance to win the division; the Phillies have a 12.7 percent chance.

The earliest the Braves can clinch is Thursday, but only if they sweep the series. The Phillies, on the other hand, need to sweep the series to give themselves a fighting chance. Because even if they win twice in Atlanta, they will be two back in the loss column with only three regular-season games to play.

Here is a look at the upcoming series:

Pitching matchups (Phillies at Braves)

Tuesday: RHP (14-9, 2.79 ERA) vs. RHP (13-6, 3.53 ERA)
Wheeler is an NL Cy Young Award candidate, leading the Majors in innings, strikeouts, complete games, shutouts, batters faced and WAR, according to Baseball-Reference. Morton has posted a 2.95 ERA over his past 18 starts. He has also allowed three or fewer runs in three of four starts against Philadelphia so far this year.

Wednesday: RHP (9-8, 4.64 ERA) vs. LHP (13-7, 3.12 ERA)
Nola has struggled for much of the season, tallying a 5.04 ERA in his last 27 starts. But he has a 3.28 ERA in 24 career starts against Atlanta. Fried’s 1.78 ERA since the All-Star break matches Max Scherzer for the NL’s best mark.

Thursday: RHP (10-6, 3.60 ERA) vs. RHP (8-5, 3.60 ERA)
Gibson posted a 3.16 ERA in six appearances in August, but he has a 7.16 ERA in five starts this month. Anderson has steadily improved since missing nearly seven weeks with right shoulder inflammation. He has 24 strikeouts over his past 17 2/3 innings (three starts).

Who’s hot on the Phillies?
, RF
Harper has emerged as a frontrunner for the NL MVP Award because of a strong second half. He is batting .347 with 26 doubles, one triple, 19 home runs, 48 RBIs and a 1.225 OPS in 67 games since the All-Star break.

, 1B
Miller has done a fine job filling in for Rhys Hoskins, who suffered a season-ending injury last month. Miller is batting .273 with eight homers, 14 RBIs and a .985 OPS in his last 29 games.

Neris is 3-1 with a 1.85 ERA in his last 36 appearances. He has struck out 52 batters and walked 12 in 39 innings.

Who’s hot on the Braves?
, 1B
Freeman is hitting .337 with a .951 OPS in September. He has also hit seven of his 31 homers this season against the Phillies.

, 3B
Riley has a slash line of .328/.328/.537 with 12 runs scored and 12 RBIs over his past 15 games.

, LF
Rosario has four homers and a 1.003 OPS since Sept. 11.

Key injuries
Phillies right-hander has been on the 10-day injured list with a strained right groin, but he is expected to be activated on Tuesday in Atlanta. That would give manager Joe Girardi another late-inning bullpen option as righty Archie Bradley was placed on the IL on Saturday, ending his season.

The Braves are entering this series without any injury concerns.

Season series
The Phillies lead the season series, 9-7. But the Braves are 4-2 against them at Truist Park, and 7-6 against them following a season-opening sweep at Citizens Bank Park in April.

They said it
“I mean, every time you play somebody you want to sweep them. We'd be up half a game or something like that if we went in there and swept. … As a team, as a whole, I think we’re confident going into Atlanta. We have to go down there, we have to do our job, we have to be ready to go from pitch one, get 27 outs a game, and we have to be very good with all 27 of those outs.” -- Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper

“It's kind of like one of the coolest situations to be in, an opportunity to clinch at home in front of all our hometown fans. But we just got to take it game by game and go out there and try to win the series.” -- Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud