|Braves, Freeman ready for a fight from Phillies|
ATLANTA -- The Phillies get the Braves in Philadelphia for three games to end the regular season, but it may not matter after the teams' four-game series at SunTrust Park starting Thursday night.
The Braves' magic number to win the National League East is down to six and that means they can clinch before the Phillies leave Atlanta on Sunday.
The Braves (84-68) snapped a four-game losing streak by beating St. Louis 7-3 on Wednesday to remain 5 1/2 games ahead of Philadelphia (78-73).
The Phillies are 6-11 in September, but won their second straight series Wednesday by beating the New York Mets 4-0.
The Braves are only 10-8 this month despite a recent six-game winning streak, but first baseman Freddie Freeman appears to be out of his funk.
Freeman had a second straight three-hit game against the Cardinals and blasted his 23rd homer while driving in three runs.
Freeman was an NL MVP candidate before he hit .195 with one homer and a .584 OPS over a 22-game stretch from Aug. 16-Sept. 7. Now it looks like he could be a difference-maker again.
The All-Star goes into the Philadelphia series batting .405 with two home runs and nine RBIs over his past 11 games.
"I've been feeling better lately and hopefully I can continue that," Freeman said.
The Braves have had Vince Velasquez's number and he will start the series opener for the Phillies, with Atlanta calling on fellow right-hander Kevin Gausman.
Velasquez (9-11, 4.50 ERA) is 0-4 with a 7.41 ERA in four starts against the Braves this season and 0-5 with a 4.60 ERA in eight career outings.
Velasquez also lasted only two innings in his most recent start Saturday against Miami and is 1-3 with a 7.52 ERA in his last seven outings.
Gausman (10-10, 3.92 ERA) was acquired by the Braves from Baltimore at the end of July and is 5-2 with a 2.61 ERA in eight starts with his new team.
Gausman's only career outing against Philadelphia came July 12 while with the Orioles and he took a loss, allowing five runs and 12 hits in five innings.
The Braves have won seven of the 12 games against the Phillies this season, going 4-2 at home and 3-3 on the road.
Nine of the games came in April and the other three in May, meaning that this series in Atlanta and the one to end the regular season in Philadelphia have been pointed to for months.
"We have a chance to control our own destiny," Phillies left fielder Rhys Hoskins said after hitting his 32nd homer in the series finale against the Mets. "Win games and we've got a chance to be in the playoffs."
The Phillies may have fallen a little too far off the Braves' pace, though.
"I think what we need ... to buy into is what we can control is our work right now," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "That is going to give us our best chance to stay in this as long as possible. ... But I don't think it makes a whole lot of sense to look too far out."
Philadelphia juggled its rotation a while ago to make sure that Cy Young Award candidate Aaron Nola was available to pitch this weekend and next. Former Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta is also set to go for the Phillies.
"It's going to be a big series, a fun series," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "We're getting all their top guys and we're running our top guys at them."