Phillies hope to have Bryce Harper for opener vs. Braves

National Sports

Despite dropping consecutive games on the road against the New York Yankees, the Philadelphia Phillies remain in contention in the National League East.

With a crucial four-game series beginning Thursday against the visiting Atlanta Braves, the Phillies can still gain ground on the division-leading New York Mets.

“We’re in striking distance,” said Bryce Harper, who was scheduled to receive postgame X-rays after fouling a ball off his foot. “We’re in a spot where we’re really going to realize where we are in the next 10 days, right? … But also with that, you never want to just say, ‘Hey, where are we? Could we have won a couple games here if we wouldn’t have waited?'”

The Phillies fell 6-5 in 10 innings Wednesday against the Yankees but still sit just three-and-a-half games behind the Mets.

Even with a number of key injuries, the Phillies are in position to reach the postseason for the first time since 2011.

“The next person just has to step up,” manager Joe Girardi said. “That’s part of it. There’s a lot of teams that are going through this now. So the next person just has to step up. Take it one game at a time, and you figure out how to win that game.”

The Phillies will hand the ball to Matt Moore, who has an 0-1 record with a 5.25 earned run average. Moore is 1-0 with a 5.79 ERA in four career appearances – two starts — against the Braves.

A strong performance by Moore would be crucial in opening this four-game series.

“We want to put that pressure on (the front office) to hopefully go out there and get the guys that we need to get, if that’s bullpen, if that’s positions,” Harper said. “As a team, I think we know where we can be.”

The Braves fell 3-2 to the San Diego Padres in the first game of a doubleheader on Wednesday. The second game was suspended after a long rain delay.

Like the Phillies, the Braves have been besieged by a litany of injuries. In fact, recently acquired Stephen Vogt became the seventh catcher to play for the team this season, tying a franchise record set way back in 1929.

“I feel good, and my swing feels good,” Vogt said. “I’m just excited to come in here and contribute any way I can and be part of a winning team.”

The Braves have been a winning team in recent seasons thanks in large part to Freddie Freeman. The veteran has overcome a slow start and has boosted his average to .284 with 22 home runs.

Since Ronald Acuna Jr. suffered a torn right anterior cruciate ligament, Freeman has elevated his offense.

“Doing anything I possibly can to get this team in the playoffs,” Freeman said. “That’s my only goal. We know what kind of stretch we have going into the trade deadline. So my job is to try and make it easy on (the front office). I have no distractions. Right now, all I care about is getting more runs than the other team. … I felt good going into the break and I feel good now. Hopefully I can continue to stay strong and keep hitting.”

The Braves will send Charlie Morton to the mound. Morton (8-3, 3.69 ERA) is 3-5 with a 5.40 ERA for his career against the Phillies.

Regardless of who’s in the lineup, Freeman believes the Braves have the ability to win.

“I truly believe we have the guys to do it,” he said.

–Field Level Media

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