Phillies head to Atlanta to open pivotal series with division leading Braves

Aaron Nola set to start pivotal series opener for Phillies
Is do-or-die a thing in early July? In this instance, absolutely. The Phillies open a pivotal three-game set with the NL East-leading Braves in Atlanta tonight at SunTrust Park. The Phillies enter the day trailing the Braves by 5 1/2 games.

The Phillies hope the flip of the calendar will be a signal of good things to come. The club stumbled to an 11-16 mark in June after opening the month nine games over .500.

"We've got three months of baseball, and ride these next six games into the break," Bryce Harper told MLB.com. "Big series here in Atlanta coming up -- hopefully play some good baseball and go into New York, play them well and enjoy the break and get back to work."

It's not just this series in Atlanta, but rather the entire month that's important for the Phillies. The club faces the Braves six times, the Nationals three times, and the Dodgers three times. Combined, the club is 8-12 against those three this year.

Aaron Nola will pitch on regular rest on Tuesday in the series opener. He's collected 10 strikeouts in each of his last two outings and has allowed just one earned run over 15 innings. The Braves counter with newly signed starter Dallas Keuchel who will be making his third start in an Atlanta uniform. It'll also be his home debut.

The Braves have been led as of late via their offense. Ronald Acuna Jr. and Freedie Freeman have both been hot and led the club to six wins on a recent 10-game road trip.

“These guys have been pushed hard,” manager Brian Snitker told MLB.com on Sunday following an 8-5 loss to the Mets at Citi Field. “These have been 10 tough games. It’s a tough road trip, we come out on top -- won two series and split one. [It] kind of just took a lot out of us and kind of caught up with us tonight a little bit.”

As poor as the Phillies were in June, the Braves were equally good, finishing the month with 20 wins, the highest monthly total in six years.
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Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

BY PATRICK GORDON
Managing Editor
pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com

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