|Braves, Phillies no joke in NL East|
After being among the bottom feeders of the National League East last year, the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies are happy to find themselves in a better place early in the season.
The two teams open a three-game series Monday at SunTrust Park, the second time the Phillies have visited Atlanta in the first three weeks of the season. Atlanta will send right-hander Julio Teheran (0-1, 7.07 ERA) against Philadelphia right-hander Aaron Nola (1-0, 1.96) in a rematch of Opening Day pitchers.
The Phillies (9-5) have won six straight games and the Braves (8-6) just finished a 4-4 road trip against three of last year's playoff participants.
The Phillies completed a three-game sweep of Tampa Bay on Sunday, beating the Rays 10-4 behind Aaron Altherr's three-run homer, which broke the right fielder's 0-for-14 streak. Rookie second baseman Mike Kingery was 5-for-14 in the series and has hit safely in six straight games.
The Braves split two games against the Chicago Cubs during the weekend, a combined 4-0 shutout victory and a 14-10 loss when they allowed nine runs in the eighth inning. Sunday's game was postponed because of inclement weather and was rescheduled for May 14, a shared off day for both clubs before they start a three-game set in Atlanta.
Teheran enjoyed a very productive spring (4-0, 1.40) and opened the season with two subpar starts in which he received no decision. He pitched 5 2/3 innings against the Phillies on Opening Day and allowed four runs and four hits, then followed that with a 2 2/3-innings start against Washington, allowing five runs.
Teheran was better in his last start at Washington. He gave up two runs in six innings with a season-high seven strikeouts in a loss. He will work on an extra day of rest after his Sunday start was postponed.
"He was really good (against Washington)," Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. "He kept the game in check and gave us a chance."
Teheran said, "Other than the first inning, I made some good pitches."
Teheran will make his 20th career start against Philadelphia. He is 8-6 with a 3.52 ERA in his career against the Phillies.
Nola got a quick hook after 5 1/3 innings against Atlanta in the season opener and received no decision. He took another no decision against the Mets in his second start after allowing two runs in five innings. Nola got his first win on April 10 against Cincinnati, when he went eight innings and allowed one run.
"He has as good as command and as good of a curveball as anybody in the league," Philadelphia manager Gabe Kapler said. "Definitely a horse."
Nola has enjoyed great success against the Braves. In eight career starts, he's 5-1 with a 1.93 ERA. Nola has 40 strikeouts and 11 walks in 51 1/3 innings against Atlanta.
Philadelphia needs to slow down Atlanta second baseman Ozzie Albies, who batted .429 (15-for-35) with four home runs on the road trip. Since starting the season 2-for-10, Albies is hitting .409 with 12 extra-base hits.