MLB

Braves battle Phillies, Angels host Athletics on TSN2

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The Sports Network
4/14/2014 11:27:30 AM
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A doubleheader of divisional battles takes place tonight on TSN2. First, the Philadelphia Phillies play host to the Atlanta Braves in a matchup of NL East rivals followed by the Oakland Athletics visiting Los Angeles to play the Angels in the AL West.  

All the action gets underway at 7pm et/4pm pt on TSN2.

It was a successful slate of games for both Philadelphia and Atlanta this past weekend. The Phillies had lost four in a row before taking all three games of their series with the Miami Marlins, while the Braves bounced back from a series loss to the New York Mets by taking three straight meetings with the Washington Nationals.

Atlanta came into the season with depth concerns to its rotation thanks to a rash of injuries, but saw late addition Aaron Harang continue his solid start in Sunday's 10-2 victory.

Harang yielded one run over six innings and has posted a 0.96 earned run average through his first three starts.

It also helped that the hurler was staked to a 6-0 lead after two innings.

"When the guys come out and they put up runs on the board early, as a pitcher you can just settle back and just throw your game knowing you have some leeway to play with," Harang said.

Justin Upton made sure his pitchers had plenty of wiggle room in the series, going 8-for-10 with a pair of homers. He has 11 hits, four home runs and eight RBI over his last four games, and was one of three Braves sluggers to go deep on Sunday.

Freddie Freeman, riding a nine-game hitting streak, and Andrelton Simmons also had home runs.

Ervin Santana will make his second start with the Braves tonight and put together a spectacular debut last Wednesday.

Santana, signed on March 12 to fill a hole in the rotation, held the Mets scoreless over eight innings of a 4-3 win, yielding three hits and striking out six without a walk. The righty began the game -- and his Braves career -- by throwing 20 straight strikes.

"We went out with a game plan of getting ahead," Atlanta catcher Evan Gattis said of what made Santana so effective.

Santana has faced the Phillies just once before, doing so while with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim back in 2008. The 31-year-old picked up a win, charged with one unearned run on two hits and a pair of walks in seven innings. He also struck out nine.

The Phillies are hoping to put some early-season struggles behind them and are coming off back-to-back one-run wins over the Marlins. Chase Utley keyed Sunday's 4-3 victory with a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning.

Utley's third homer of the season upped his season average to .500 and he is the first Phillies player to start a season with a 10-game hitting streak since Pat Burrell in 2005.

Wil Nieves notched a two-run double among his three hits and Ryan Howard also homered for Philadelphia, which was coming off a 10th-inning victory the previous day on Jimmy Rollins' walk-off homer.

"The guys are patient at the plate and swinging the bats up and down the lineup," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "We had good at-bats throughout the game."

Getting the call tonight for the Phillies will be Roberto Hernandez, who won his debut with the club on April 4 and then did not factor into a 9-4 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday.

Hernandez matched his second-highest strikeout total in a game with nine, but also allowed four runs (3 earned) on seven hits in five innings of work.

The 33-year-old righty will make his second career start versus the Braves and first since June 17, 2007 while with Cleveland. Hernandez got a win on that day, scattering two runs over seven innings.

The Braves have gone 23-14 versus the Phillies over the previous two seasons, but lost five of nine in Philadelphia in 2013.

Oakland Athletics at Los Angeles Angels - 10pm et/7pm pt

Jesse Chavez takes another stab at his first win of the season Monday night when the Athletics enter Angel Stadium to open a three-game set with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Chavez has been stellar through two turns (1.38 ERA) in his first full season as a starting pitcher in the majors. After holding Seattle to one run in six innings during his first start, Chavez quieted the Twins bats on Thursday as he allowed only earned one run in seven innings.

However, both times he walked away with a no-decision.

For Los Angeles, left-hander Hector Santiago is also in search of his first win in 2014. But unlike Chavez, Santiago struggled in both of his first two starts. Most recently, he allowed four runs and three walks in 4 1/3 innings against Seattle last Tuesday.

He'll hope for some more offensive production from a lineup that has come alive of late. On Sunday, Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Raul Ibanez connected on back-to-back-to-back home runs in the first inning of an eventual 14-2 win over the New York Mets in the rubber match of a three-game interleague series.

Hank Conger and Ian Stewart also went deep for the Halos, and all nine hitters in the lineup recorded a hit and scored at least one run.

"(The Angels are) always a very dangerous team," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Monday's opponent. "You have to play well against them. Offensively, they're a force. I know they're down (injured outfielder Josh) Hamilton right now, but they still have a lot of guys who can hurt you, and some different starting pitching we haven't seen."

However, Oakland's pitching presents a tough challenge, as well. A's starters threw 17 scoreless innings and struck out 34 batters in the three-game weekend series at Seattle.

In Sunday's series-clinching, 3-0 win, Scott Kazmir struck out nine and allowed only two hits in six shutout innings. Four relievers combined to close the door over the final three frames.

"It's exciting to have guys follow up a quality start, one after another, one through five. It really is exciting," Kazmir said. "We just want to keep going out there and keep making quality pitches and quality outings, all of us."

In terms of the head-to-head series between these two teams, Oakland has won 13 of the last 19 meetings at Angel Stadium. Overall, the A's have won the last four season series after going 11-8 against the Halos in 2013.




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