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Braves-Phillies Preview

May 10, 2009 - 12:57 AM By BRETT HUSTON STATS Writer

Atlanta (13-16) at Philadelphia (15-12), 12:35 p.m. EDT

Two wins in three games at Citizens Bank Park helped get the Atlanta Braves off to a fast start this season, but over the next three weeks they slowed down considerably.

Perhaps another road series victory over the Philadelphia Phillies will get them rolling again.

The Braves beat the 2008 World Series champions just four times in 18 games last season, a win total they'll try to match Sunday afternoon as the teams decide their three-game set.

Atlanta (14-16) spoiled Philadelphia's first two home games after the Phillies' first championship in 28 years and blew a 10-3 lead in the series finale. That didn't sidetrack the Braves, though - they swept Washington to improve to 5-1.

Fourteen losses in 20 games followed, however, before Atlanta took back-to-back games at Florida earlier this week. After losing 10-6 in the opener of their series with the Phillies (15-13) on Friday, the Braves bounced back Saturday.

Brian McCann, who returned Friday after missing time with a left eye infection, hit a two-run homer to spark Atlanta's 6-2 victory.

McCann is hitting .388 (7-for-14) with three homers and 10 RBIs in five games against Philadelphia.

"It's definitely important to have Brian in the lineup," winning pitcher Javier Vazquez told the Braves' official Web site. "It's good to see him out there doing well."

The Braves were 4-14 versus Philadelphia last season, but with another win they'll equal that victory total in 2009 and the NL East rivals still have 12 games remaining.

To do that Sunday, Kenshin Kawakami (1-4, 6.41 ERA) must avoid losing a fifth straight start since winning his major league debut on April 11.

The Japanese import had an 8.04 ERA in three outings from April 16-26 but limited the damage in his latest start. He labored through five innings, throwing 113 pitches, but held the Mets to two runs and eight hits while nine runners were stranded Tuesday in a 4-3 loss.

"I thought Kawakami pitched a courageous game," manager Bobby Cox said. "Having that many pitches in five innings, he did a great job of keeping us in there. He's one tough cookie."

The right-hander has yet to face the Phillies, but one hitter he'll want to worry about is Jayson Werth. Often overlooked in a lineup with heavy hitters Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez, Werth is hitting .417 (10-for-24) with four homers and 11 RBIs in his last seven games.

Philadelphia, which has lost three of four, will give the ball to Brett Myers (2-2, 5.35) as it tries to win just its second home series in six tries this season.

Myers won his latest outing even though it was his least effective of the season. He gave up five runs and nine hits over 5 1-3 innings Tuesday at St. Louis, but a three-run homer from Werth keyed a 10-7 victory.

"Our whole starting rotation right now is not doing too well and I'm not quite sure why," Myers' told the Phillies' official Web site. "Fortunately enough we have a high-scoring offense so it ends up working out."

Philadelphia's starters have a major league-worst 6.47 ERA.

Myers has allowed 10 home runs - tied for the most in baseball with teammate Jamie Moyer - and was taken deep by McCann, Jeff Francoeur and Jordan Schafer on April 5 in the Phillies' opening-night 4-1 loss to Atlanta.

McCann is hitting .367 (11-for-30) with two homers and eight RBIs against Myers, who's lost his last three decisions to the Braves.






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