Following a successful homestand in which they compiled an 8-2 mark, the Atlanta Braves will take their talents to the road starting with tonight's opener of a three-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
The Braves are in the hunt for one of the National League's two Wild Card spots and sit three games behind the Washington Nationals for the top spot in the NL East. They took two of three meetings from the Houston Astros over the weekend and won for the 10th time in 12 tries with Sunday's 6-1 victory.
David Ross gave All-Star catcher Brian McCann a breather behind the plate and went 2-for-3 with a home run and three runs scored, while Paul Janish drove in a two runs and Chipper Jones added a pair of hits and an RBI for Atlanta, which bounced back from Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Astros.
"We'll take 8-2 in a 10-game span any day of the week, no matter who you are playing," said Jones, who now has 1,609 career RBI, tying him with Goose Goslin for 31st all-time.
Kris Medlen got the start for the Braves and did not figure into the decision. He tossed 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball, struck out six batters and issued two walks. Jonny Venters picked up the win in relief and was back in action for the first time since July 29 because of a sore elbow.
Atlanta, which will also visit the New York Mets on its road trip, is a season high-tying 16 games over .500 and 16-7 since the All-Star break. The club should have McCann back in the lineup tonight, and he is batting .310 with six homers and 16 RBI in seven games against the Phillies this season. McCann is hitting .277 with 19 home runs and 75 RBI for his career in this series.
Braves pitcher Ben Sheets will resume his comeback when he takes the mound Monday. Sheets, who missed all of 2011 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, suffered through his worst outing of the season in a 4-2 loss to Miami last Wednesday. He allowed four runs, three of which were earned, and 11 hits in 6 2/3 innings, falling to 3-1 with a 1.46 earned run average in four starts.
The tall right-hander will make his second road start of the season and defeated Philadelphia back on July 27 at Turner Field. Sheets held the Phillies to a run in six innings and is 3-4 with a 4.50 ERA in nine career starts against them.
Meanwhile, the Phillies were able to take two of three matchups from the Arizona Diamondbacks over the weekend and pulled themselves out of the basement in the NL East.
In Sunday's 5-4 win, Ryan Howard hit a game-winning single with the bases loaded to lead the way and Chase Utley homered. Erik Kratz had two hits and an RBI and Domonic Brown went 2-for-4 with a run scored for Philadelphia, which won for the fourth time in six tries.
The Phillies have hit 23 home runs in their 21 games since the All-Star break, and won consecutive series for just the fourth time this season.
"Those are character builders," Howard said. "We just want to continue to keep a good character on the team and keep good chemistry."
Cliff Lee pitched eight innings for Philadelphia in Sunday's win and allowed four runs and eight hits, including three home runs, in the no-decision. Closer Jonathan Papelbon hurled a scoreless top of the ninth for the win.
The Phillies will also host St. Louis on this nine-game homestand and hope Vance Worley can pitch them to their first three-game winning streak since a four-game run from July 22-25. Worley allowed two unearned runs in seven innings in a 3-2 win at Washington last Wednesday to even his record at 6-6 to go along with a 3.63 ERA in 18 starts.
Worley faced the Braves in a 4-3 loss on July 8 and did not factor in the outcome after he surrendered three runs in six innings. In five career appearances (3 starts) against Atlanta, the bespectacled right-hander is 1-0 with a 2.37 ERA.
The Braves are 7-2 against the Phillies this season and have won the last six meetings between the NL East foes. Philadelphia was 12-6 in this series a year ago.