The Atlanta Braves have the chance to clinch a playoff berth this weekend. The Philadelphia Phillies simply hope they'll still be in contention following these three games.
The Braves will try to move closer to securing an NL wild-card spot Friday night when they begin this road series against the Phillies.
With 12 games remaining, Atlanta (86-64) has a six-game lead atop the wild-card standings, with Milwaukee - its closest pursuer - 8 1/2 back with 13 games remaining
Unlike Atlanta, which has put itself in good position to clinch a postseason spot, Philadelphia still needs a lot of help despite an impressive run.
The Phillies (76-74) are coming off a three-game sweep of the New York Mets, punctuated by a 16-1 victory Thursday.
Ryan Howard hit a grand slam, Chase Utley drove in four runs and Philadelphia pounded out 21 hits, scoring eight runs in the first and seven in the ninth.
The Phillies stayed four games behind St. Louis for the second NL wild card, with two other teams in their path. The Phillies and Cardinals both have 12 games left.
"It's up to us to keep playing," manager Charlie Manuel told the team's official website. "That's all we can do. Play each game every day, try to win, see what happens. We're going to have to get some help. Somebody's got to beat the Cardinals. And Dodgers. And Milwaukee."
Cutting into the deficit won't be easy this weekend. Atlanta won two of three against Miami this week, including a 3-0 victory Wednesday. Kris Medlen struck out six in eight innings and Jason Heyward's sacrifice fly in the first inning stood up.
The Braves lost shortstop Andrelton Simmons and backup Paul Janish to left shoulder injuries during the series, though there is a chance Simmons could play. Janish, however, may be facing season-ending surgery after suffering a dislocation.
"They're going to do all the tests, whatever they got to do," manager Fredi Gonzalez told the team's official website. "He won't play for a while because it's significant."
Atlanta, which has won five of six, has a magic number of five to clinch a playoff spot.
The Braves will hand the ball to Tommy Hanson (12-8, 4.33 ERA), who seeks to end a six-game winless streak.
Despite his lack of personal success, Atlanta has won eight of Hanson's last 11 starts, including the last two. He gave up four runs - two earned - and struck out seven over five innings of a 5-4 win over Washington last Saturday.
The right-hander has had mixed results against the Phillies despite Atlanta winning both starts. He gave up four runs in 3 2-3 innings in a 15-13, 11-inning victory May 2, but was sharper while allowing three runs in seven innings of a 6-3 victory July 7.
Kyle Kendrick (9-11, 3.95) will counter for the Phillies, coming off his worst start in a month.
Kendrick gave up four runs and seven hits in five innings of a 5-0 loss at Houston last Saturday. He had allowed two or fewer runs in his previous six starts.
The right-hander wasn't much better against the Braves last month, surrendering six runs and seven hits over 3 1-3 innings of a 12-6 loss Aug. 8.
Despite being winless in two starts and one relief appearance against Atlanta this year, he is 5-1 with a 2.97 ERA in 12 career starts against the Braves.
Chipper Jones, whose farewell road tour continues in his final season, is 8 for 26 (.308) with two homers lifetime against Kendrick.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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