The Atlanta Braves are closing in on an NL wild-card berth, but Cliff Lee stands in the way of their immediate progress in that area.
Lee hopes to continue his recent success Sunday when the Philadelphia Phillies try to take the decisive series finale against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park.Freddie Freeman hit a three-run homer and Jason Heyward had four RBIs on Saturday as Atlanta (87-65) scored seven runs in the first two innings off Roy Halladay to win 8-2. The Braves snapped the Phillies' four-game winning streak, while reducing their own magic number to clinch a wild-card spot to three.The Braves have won six of eight and appear much more focused than the club that had an 8 1/2-game wild-card lead last year, but went 9-18 down the stretch and were overtaken by St. Louis on the final day of the season."I don't want to hear anything about it," Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said.Philadelphia (77-75) has won 20 of 28, but the five-time defending NL East champions are four games behind the Cardinals for the second and final wild-card spot."It's definitely not where we want to be, but we've still got a chance," Lee told the Phillies' official website.Though the Braves have won six of eight at Philadelphia, they expect to face a stiff challenge versus Lee (6-7, 3.27 ERA). The left-hander is 4-0 with a 1.63 ERA in seven starts since losing to St. Louis on Aug. 11.That stretch includes a 5-1 victory at Atlanta on Sept 1, when Lee allowed five hits over seven scoreless innings. He's yielded two runs in 22 innings while winning his last three starts against the Braves, and is 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA in his last four versus Atlanta.Lee has allowed one earned run and struck out 16 over 15 innings in his last two starts overall. That run came along with 10 strikeouts over eight innings of a 3-1 win at New York on Monday."He controlled the game, he was that good," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.Chipper Jones, who will play what is likely his last game in Philadelphia on Sunday, is batting .429 (9 for 21) with four doubles and a homer versus Lee. Jones went 2 for 5 with an RBI on Saturday to help the Braves even this weekend's set.Freeman's homer is the only hit in his last 15 at-bats.Scheduled Atlanta starter Tim Hudson (15-6, 3.77) has a 5.32 ERA in four starts against the Phillies this season but is 2-1 in those contests. He's allowed 11 runs, three homers and walked six in 9 1/3 innings while going 0-1 in his last two outings versus Philadelphia. The most recent came opposite Lee on Sept 1, when he gave up five runs in five innings.The right-hander yielded four runs in the fourth inning and did not walk or strike out a batter over five frames of a 7-5 win at Miami on Monday.Ryan Howard, who homered Saturday for the Phillies, has hit .355 (22 for 62) with seven homers against Hudson during his career.
In Cliff Lee's past four starts against Atlanta, he is 3-0 with an ERA of 0.90 and 26 strikeouts in 30 innings. That includes a five-hit shutout last September in the previous meeting at Citizens Bank Park. He also struck out 16 Braves in a game last season but lost because he got zero runs of support.
Jimmy Rollins is hitting .224 and slugging .474 in 76 career ABs against Tim Hudson. Of his 17 hits, 10 have been for extra bases, including three homers. Livan Hernandez (17-for-80) is the only active pitcher he has faced more often.