Braves begin series in south Philly

The playoff-bound Atlanta Braves can all but extinguish the postseason hopes of the Philadelphia Phillies tonight when the teams open a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park.

The Braves, who are second in the National League East Division and trail Washington by 5 1/2 games, are 8 1/2 games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers in the chase to secure one of the league's two wild card berths.

Atlanta is six games ahead of St. Louis, which now holds the second wild card slot.

The Phillies are fifth in the overall race for the two spots and trail the Cardinals by four games.

For the Braves, right-hander Tommy Hanson tries to snap a skid that's left him winless since July 30.

The 26-year-old has started six times since and is 0-3 with three no-decisions while his earned run average has crept slightly up from 4.29 to 4.33.

He pitched five innings against the Nationals in his most recent start on Sept. 15, allowing two earned runs on five hits while getting a no-decision in the Braves' 5-4 win.

Hanson is 2-2 in nine career starts against the Phillies with a 3.06 ERA in 47 innings.

Philadelphia counters with righty Kyle Kendrick, who's had significant success in 18 career meetings with the Braves.

The 28-year-old has won six of seven decisions while posting a 2.87 ERA while starting 12 times and relieving six more against Atlanta.

His last meeting with the Braves was Aug. 8 in Philadelphia and he was uncharacteristically ineffective, allowing six runs on seven hits in 3 1/3 innings of a game the Phillies lost, 12-6.

In seven starts since, Kendrick is 5-2 and has trimmed his ERA from 4.86 to 3.95.

On Thursday in New York, the Phillies brought 13 hitters to the plate and scored eight runs during a 33-minute first inning en route to thumping the Mets, 16-1, and finishing off a three-game sweep at Citi Field.

Jimmy Rollins, Juan Pierre and Chase Utley combined for 11 hits, eight RBI and six runs scored.

"We didn't have things go the way we wanted them to go (while the Cardinals played) in Houston," Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard said. "Four down, the only thing we can do is continue to win and let everything else sort itself out."

On Wednesday in Miami, Kris Medlen spun eight shutout innings to guide the Braves to a 3-0 triumph over the Marlins in the finale of a three-game set at Marlins Park.

Medlen (9-1) scattered four hits and struck out six to earn his eighth straight winning decision.

The Braves have won 21 consecutive games that Medlen started dating back to 2010. The last team to win 21 straight starts by one pitcher was the New York Yankees, who won 22 straight Whitey Ford starts in 1950 and 1953. Ford missed the 1951 and 1952 seasons for military service.

"I felt good. I didn't have that two-seamer coming back to lefties, I was kind of pulling a little bit," Medlen said. "Overall I felt great. I was trying to get a feel for the game, trying to see if they were going to be aggressive, or patient. I don't know I kind of just mixed and matched."

Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman and Jose Constanza each drove in a run for the Braves.

The Braves won 10 of the first 15 games between the teams in 2012, but the Phillies won two of three when they last played from Aug. 31-Sept. 2 in Atlanta. Philadelphia won 12 of 18 games in 2011.