Also notes on Charlie Morton and Austin Riley’s red hot second half
In many respects, the final week of the regular season will serve as a precursor to the playoffs for the Atlanta Braves. They can punch their ticket with a sweep in their three-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies. Just securing a series win would put Philadelphia’s hopes on life support.
For that reason alone, Tuesday’s series opener has an October feel and a bit of a postseason flavor for Brian Snitker and the Braves. “Feels like October baseball already,” Snitker said during his pregame media session. “Just the break in the weather and all that. It kind of jacks you up and puts you in that mode.”
“I wish we were five up right now or six up with six to play, but yeah, if you had told me in June that we’d be sitting here today getting ready to get into these next three days I’d have been all in,” Snitker added.
The Braves are 7-9 against the Phillies this season but are 4-2 at Truist Park. Atlanta was 48-51 when they last saw Philadelphia on July 25 but just 16 of the 26 players on the roster then are on the active roster currently.
Charlie Morton will be making his 32nd start of the season for the Braves in Tuesday’s opener. In many ways, this is the exact situation that Atlanta envisioned when they signed him to a free agent contract this offseason.
“He came with instant credibility here and what he’s been through. He’s been in this arena,” Snitker said of Morton. “Sure feels good knowing that you got a guy like Charlie Morton out there on the hill for you.”
Morton has allowed six runs in 17 2/3 innings across four starts against the Phillies this season. He allowed six unearned runs in just 2/3 of an inning against them back on May 7. Morton struck out eight in his last start in Arizona to eclipse the 200 strikeout mark for the third time in his career. He is the first Braves pitcher to record 200 strikeouts in a season since Mike Foltynewicz in 2018.
Austin Riley will bring a career-best 12-game hitting streak into Tuesday’s game. He is hitting .370 during that stretch with three home runs and 11 RBI. Since the All-Star break, Riley is hitting .335/.381/.604 with 18 home runs and 58 RBI which is the most in the National League. He has 86 hits during that span which is the second most since the All-Star break in baseball.
Ozzie Albies will enter Tuesday’s game with 74 extra-base hits which is one behind Bryce Harper’s 75 for the National League lead. He needs just two more doubles over the final week to become the 10th player in history with three seasons of at least 40 doubles, 20 homers and five triples.