Braves open home slate vs. Phillies with pitching rematch

MLB

A rematch of two frontline pitchers will get the three-game series between the Atlanta Braves and visiting Philadelphia Phillies started on Friday.

Philadelphia’s Zack Wheeler (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will oppose Atlanta’s Charlie Morton (0-1, 5.40 ERA) when the two right-handers take the mound for the Braves’ home opener on Friday.

The Phillies swept a three-game series against the Braves in Philadelphia to open the season last week. That included a 4-0 victory in the second game that matched Wheeler and Morton.

Wheeler was particularly impressive in his first start. He allowed only one hit over seven shutout innings and struck out 10. Wheeler showed great velocity and command, throwing 62 of his 90 pitches for strikes and retiring the final 17 batters he faced. He also had two hits and drove in a pair of runs in the victory.

“The first inning or two I really wasn’t getting ahead of guys like I wanted to,” Wheeler said. “Then as the game went on, I did a little better job at that. When you’ve got everything working and you’re placing it where you want to, it makes it a lot easier.”

Morton matched Wheeler until the fifth, when the Phillies rallied with two outs to score three runs. He worked five innings and allowed three runs on six hits and two walks with five strikeouts.

“I thought he pitched great,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “Charlie slows the game down. I’m amazed how good his stuff still is. His stuff is so alive and good. He amazes me.”

Overall, Wheeler is 7-5 with a 3.54 in 17 starts against the Braves. Morton is 2-4 with a 6.08 ERA in eight career starts vs. the Phillies.

The Phillies just took two of three from the New York Mets, the first time they’ve opened the season by winning the first two series since 2011. Philadelphia had struggled to score runs until getting eight in Wednesday’s win over New York; the Phillies swept the Braves despite scoring only nine runs in the three games and hitting just one home run.

“All teams like three-run homers,” Philadelphia manager Joe Girardi said. “But I’ll tell you the biggest thing is on base, putting traffic on base. If you do that consistently, you’re going to score runs. Homers can help you quickly, but if you put runners on, you’re usually going to score runs. If you go looking for homers, you’re going to make outs, going to make quick outs and going to swing and miss a lot.”

Philadelphia’s top hitters have been Rhys Hoskins (.417, six doubles, one homer) and J.T. Realmuto (.333, six RBI). Bryce Harper has yet to hit a home run.

The Atlanta bats, who produced only three runs in the Philadelphia series, stirred briefly in Wednesday’s doubleheader sweep of Washington. The seven runs the Braves scored in the first game were a season high.

Atlanta’s hottest hitter is Ronald Acuna Jr., who was 5-for-11 with three extra-base hits and four RBI in the three games against Washington. Acuna had two homers in the first game of the series, both against Max Scherzer, and is hitting .304.

But Atlanta’s other big bats remain dormant. Freddie Freeman is hitting .111 with one homer, Marcell Ozuna is hitting .100 with no extra-base hits and Ozzie Albies is hitting .091.

–Field Level Media

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