MLB

Braves-Phillies Preview

The Philadelphia Phillies have been one of baseball's biggest surprises but this weekend series against the NL's worst team hasn't gone as planned.

Neither has most of the year for starter Jerad Eickhoff.

He's dropped his last five decisions and will be out to help the Phillies avoid a three-game home sweep by the Atlanta Braves on Sunday.

Philadelphia (24-19) has been battling for the East lead in the early season after consecutive last-place finishes but has now gone 17 innings without scoring after losing the first two games of this series, 7-1 on Friday and 2-0 on Saturday. The Phillies have totaled eight hits with 17 strikeouts and four walks, and failed to bat with a runner in scoring in position Saturday.

It's not surprising that offense is an issue since this series pits baseball's worst offenses, with Atlanta averaging 3.3 runs and Philadelphia 3.2.

While the Phillies' bats need to wake up, Eickhoff (1-6, 4.44 ERA) also needs to show improvement. He's 0-5 with a 5.45 ERA in his last six outings, with opponents bating .293 against him.

The right-hander had a quality start Monday, yielding three runs over six innings in a 5-3 defeat to Miami while suffering from a migraine headache.

''Just trying to make little adjustments from last outing,'' Eickhoff said. ''Curve was not effective, two-seamer had good life. Slider is a big pitch for me.''

Eickhoff's previous outing to that one was a 5-1 loss to the Braves in which he surrendered four runs over 4 1/3 innings May 11.

Kelly Johnson is 4 for 8 against him and Freddie Freeman is 3 for 5 with a homer. They will be eager to face a pitcher who is allowing left-handed hitters to bat .324.

Freeman is 3 for 8 in this series and leadoff hitter Chase d'Arnaud is 5 for 8 after he had a career-high three hits Saturday. This weekend represents D'Arnaud's return to Philadelphia after he played 11 games for the Phillies in 2015.

''Everybody wants to contribute,'' D'Arnaud said. ''I feel really locked in.''

Atlanta (12-30) has captured its second series of the year and is expected to call up Casey Kelly (0-0, 3.00) from Triple-A Gwinnett for his first start of the year and first with the club. He was with the Braves between April 20-22, making one relief appearance in which he allowed one run in three innings.

The right-hander is taking the place in the rotation of Aaron Blair, who was demoted Tuesday after going 0-3 with a 7.59 ERA in five starts.

Kelly is 2-5 with a 6.81 ERA in eight career starts - all with San Diego over the previous two seasons. He has never faced Philadelphia or any of its hitters.

Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera is hitless in 11 at-bats, Ryan Howard is hitless in 15 and Carlos Ruiz is 0 for 10 in his last three games.

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