A full house of 41,000-plus is expected at Truist Park when the Atlanta Braves host the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday in the first of a three-game series.
The Braves will have the park at full capacity when they host their National League East rivals. The club began the season with 30 percent capacity for the first homestand and increased it to 50 percent for the second. With COVID numbers continuing to decline, the team continued its plan to open the doors to 100 percent.
“It’s going to be really cool to see that and feel the energy of everybody,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “I’m happy for the fans that everybody is going to be allowed to come.”
This is the third series between the two clubs. The Phillies swept the three-game set in Philadelphia to open the season and the Braves came back to take two of three a week later in Atlanta.
The pitching matchup for the series opener features a pair of right-handers: Philadelphia’s Zach Eflin (1-1, 3.49 ERA) vs. Atlanta’s Charlie Morton (2-1, 5.08).
Eflin has made two starts this season against Atlanta, posting a 3.46 ERA without earning a decision. He’s struck out 10 and walked two in 13 innings. Eflin is 5-3 with a 3.48 ERA in 11 career starts against the Braves.
Eflin has pitched at least six innings in each of his six starts this season. In his previous start, he departed with a 4-2 lead at home against the New York Mets last Sunday before the bullpen gave up six runs in the eighth inning of an eventual 8-7 defeat.
Eflin allowed a season-high 10 hits but only two runs over six innings, striking out seven without a walk. He also committed one of the Phillies’ two key errors in the loss, making a wide throw to second on a potential double-play grounder by Mets catcher James McCann.
“It’s such a tough play because I take so much pride in being a good defensive pitcher and fielding my position,” Eflin said. “It was such a reaction-based grounder. I never even really saw the ball. I just threw the glove up and thought I had it. … That’s really not going to sit well with me.”
Morton is 1-1 with a 3.27 ERA in two starts against the Phillies this season. He has 12 strikeouts and allowed three walks in 11 innings. The veteran is 3-4 with a 5.48 ERA in nine career starts against the Phillies.
Morton has allowed four or more runs in three of his past four starts, including his previous outing Saturday at Toronto. In a no-decision, a game Atlanta lost 6-5, Morton gave up four runs and five hits over 5 1/3 innings, with six strikeouts and a pair of walks.
Both teams are coming off sweeps. The Braves took three straight at Washington, its first sweep of the Nationals since 2014, and finished it off with a 3-2 win on Thursday. The Phillies won four in a row against the Milwaukee Brewers, capped by a 2-0 complete-game effort of Zack Wheeler on Thursday.
“This is a big point in our season,” said Philadelphia manager Joe Girardi, who begins a nine-game road trip that will take the team to Atlanta, Washington and Toronto.
The Phillies have been without Bryce Harper, who has missed four straight games and seven of the last eight with a sore left wrist. The club is also thin without relievers Archie Bradley (oblique) and JoJo Romero (left elbow sprain), but the bullpen got a break when Wheeler was able to go the distance against Milwaukee.
Atlanta signed Tyler Flowers to a minor league deal Thursday and hopes he can be ready by June 1. His experience was needed when starter Travis d’Arnaud injured his right thumb and will miss much of the season following surgery. Flowers, 35, played for the Braves from 2016 to 2020.
–Field Level Media