For the Philadelphia Phillies, the next four games could very well set the tone for the next few weeks. Whether that tone happens to be positive or negative remains to be seen.
On Monday, the Phillies will begin a four-game series against the division rival Atlanta Braves. The Braves entered Sunday tied with the Washington Nationals for the top spot in the NL East, and they’re expected to hold that spot throughout the duration of the season.
After moving to .500 earlier today with a 4-3 win over the Miami Marlins, the Phillies are still in decent shape despite struggling early. That’s why the upcoming series against the Braves is so important.
If the Phillies can play the Braves tough, it will provide the team with a measuring stick on where they stand right now. They can’t afford to be swept in the four-game series, especially by a team they’ll be playing plenty of times throughout the course of the year. That outcome would almost certainly rattle the team’s confidence heading into a critical road trip.
The Braves series marks the last leg of Philadelphia’s current homestand. The Phillies will then travel west to play 10 games in 10 days against the Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks. It’s an important stretch for the team; the Phillies went 17-16 against the NL West last season, but were poor overall on the road.
The recent sweep of the Marlins should generate some good momentum for Philadelphia. Chase Utley is leading the charge on offense, but he’ll need guys like Ryan Howard and Domonic Brown to step up around him if the Phillies hope to put up runs. From a pitching standpoint, Jonathan Papelbon looked good out of the bullpen, but that was about it. The starting pitching was mediocre, and the Phillies will need more from that unit.
With injury concerns surrounding A.J. Burnett, the time is now for Cliff Lee to break out of his recent slump and start pitching like the ace he is.
It’s imperative for the Phillies to build off that momentum and take care of business at home against the Braves. The Phillies don’t necessarily need a sweep, and even a mere split would do the trick. They need to leave for the west coast with clear heads and a level of contentment with how they played in the previous four games.