Indianapolis Star
Major League Baseball
Preview
Philadelphia at Atlanta
When: 1:35 PM ET, Sunday, September 23, 2018
Where: SunTrust Park, Cumberland, Georgia

The Atlanta Braves spent most of the season beating up on the other teams in the National League East, and the newly minted division champions close a four-game home series Sunday against the Philadelphia Phillies looking to continue that dominance. The Braves clinched their first postseason berth in five years with a 5-3 victory Saturday, a third consecutive victory over the Phillies that extended Atlanta’s record in division games this season to 46-23.

With seven games left in the regular season, winning the East title gives Atlanta the chance to rest some of its regulars like first baseman Freddie Freeman, who has started all but one game this season and contributed a two-run single in the clinching victory. The Phillies have nobody to blame but themselves for not keeping the division close, going 14-27 since opening up a 1 1/2-game lead on Aug. 7. Philadelphia has struggled mightily at times in the series offensively, scoring 12 runs in the three games and not collecting its first hit Saturday until the seventh inning. Second baseman Cesar Hernandez drove in two runs Saturday and has 12 RBIs in his past 14 games.

TV: 1:35 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Philadelphia, FS South (Atlanta)

PITCHING MATCHUP: Phillies RH Aaron Nola (16-5, 2.44 ERA) vs. Braves RH Anibal Sanchez (6-6, 3.01)

Nola has established himself as one of the top pitchers in baseball in his third full season, lowering his ERA by more than a full run from last year while leading the NL in WAR for pitchers (9.6) and ranking third in WHIP (0.98). The 25-year-old has hit a speed bump in September, posting a 5.01 ERA while going 1-2 in four starts with eight homers allowed. Nola, who gave up two runs with nine strikeouts in a no-decision Tuesday against the New York Mets, is 1-1 with a 2.95 ERA in three starts against Atlanta in 2018.

Sanchez has become one of the unsung heroes for the Braves in 2018, as the 34-year-old a candidate for NL Comeback Player of the Year after being signed during the final week of spring training. He makes his 23rd start (24th appearance) after giving up two runs on four hits with nine strikeouts in a loss Tuesday to St. Louis but has allowed fewer than four earned runs 13 times in his past 15 starts. Sanchez, who has yet to face Philadelphia this season, is holding opponents to a .216 batting average.

WALK-OFFS

1. Atlanta CF Ender Inciarte, who went 2-for-3 with three runs scored and a stolen base Saturday, is hitting .421 with 14 runs scored in his past 11 games.

2. Philadelphia RHP Jake Arrieta pitched just two innings Saturday, the shortest start of his nine-year career.

3. The Braves have won four in a row at home after going 4-14 in their previous 18 home contests.

PREDICTION: Phillies 6, Braves 2
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W/L Strk Home Away East Central West IL
Philadelphia 78-76 L3 47-31 31-45 32-40 19-14 15-14 12-8
Atlanta 87-68 W4 42-38 45-30 46-23 18-14 15-19 8-12
Last Meeting
Philadelphia Atlanta
Date Away Home Avg HR OPS Avg HR OPS
9/22/18 PHI 3 ATL 5 .133 0 .369 .214 0 .567
Player Stats
Season Series
Batting Player Avg Hits OPS
Philadelphia O. Herrera .264 14 .787
Atlanta E. Inciarte .365 23 .850
Offense Player HR Runs RBI
Philadelphia O. Herrera 3 4 7
Atlanta O. Albies 4 14 9
Pitching ERA Avg K
Philadelphia 4.72 .210 116
Atlanta 3.13 .269 141
Season
Batting Player Avg Hits OPS
Philadelphia A. Cabrera .262 143 .773
Atlanta F. Freeman .311 186 .896
Offense Player HR Runs RBI
Philadelphia R. Hoskins 32 86 93
Atlanta R. Acuna Jr. 26 77 58
Pitching ERA Avg K
Philadelphia 4.02 .236 1390
Atlanta 3.79 .259 1351