Phillies-Braves 5 Things: Leiter Continues Push for Future Rotation Spot

Phillies (49-81) vs. Braves (57-72)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies continued their dominance over the Braves on Monday, winning 6-1 to improve to 12-2 vs. Atlanta on the season.

The Phils, despite owning the majors' worst record, have the majors' best record against any division opponent with that 12-2 mark. 

1. What is it about this matchup?
There are several reasons behind the Phillies' pounding of the Braves this season. Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr, both on the DL with hamstring injuries, have had monster years against them. 

The Phillies have also pitched extremely well - they have a 3.12 ERA against the Braves, and that includes a 14-1 loss back in early June. Remove that game and the Phillies have a 2.36 ERA against the Braves in 2017.

Why is that? Well, Freddie Freeman missed four of the games. Matt Kemp missed five. And really, aside from Freeman, nobody in Atlanta's lineup takes pitches or works counts. The Braves have a lot of free swingers who have simply gotten themselves out early in counts against the Phillies.

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Catcher Cameron Rupp said last night that he "wishes we played them every night." That probably won't sit well in the Braves' clubhouse, but it's not like they're in denial about how the season series has gone. 

2. New challenge for Hoskins
With an RBI double last night, Rhys Hoskins became only the second player in the majors this season with an extra-base hit and an RBI in six straight games. Giancarlo Stanton is the other.

Since 1950, the only two Phillies with longer streaks were Bobby Abreu in 2005 and Chase Utley in 2008.

But Tuesday brings a new challenge for Hoskins: knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

There are few knucklers in today's game so Hoskins has never seen someone like Dickey, who throws his knuckleball with more velocity than most. 

Dickey (8-8, 4.06) has shut down the Phillies twice this season, allowing one earned run in 14 innings with 16 strikeouts. Against all other teams, he has a 4.40 ERA.

The Phillies newest to the majors have not fared well against Dickey. Combined, Phillies rookies this season and second-year player Tommy Joseph are 1 for 15 off Dickey with five strikeouts.

3. Leiter chasing an opportunity
With all the uncertainty in the Phillies' starting rotation moving forward, Mark Leiter Jr. has a chance to pitch his way toward a spot on the staff over these final five weeks.

Leiter is coming off an extremely impressive start vs. the Marlins - seven one-hit, shutout innings. 

Leiter has made 21 appearances this season, five as a starter and 16 as a reliever. In the five starts, he's 2-2 with a 3.18 ERA and 1.13 WHIP.

Leiter does not possess exceptional stuff, but he has a wide array of pitches (fastball, splitter, sinker, curveball, slider, cutter) and is unafraid on the mound. He doesn't nibble. So far, it's worked out more than it hasn't.

Right now, the only two pitchers assured roles in the Phillies' rotation next season are Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff. The Phillies will have to add some stability in the offseason in the form of veteran arms, but one or two from the group of Leiter, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively and Zach Eflin could earn a job out of spring training.

4. Outfield plans
Herrera and Altherr could be activated Friday when rosters expand, according to CSN Phillies insider Jim Salisbury.

If/when that occurs, it will create a crowded outfield picture. Herrera and Nick Williams are obviously everyday guys, but the Phils will probably be cautious with Altherr, who has suffered multiple hamstring injuries this season. The likely result would be either Altherr or Tommy Joseph sitting on a given night.

5. This and that
• Hat tip to CSN producer Dan Roche for this stat: With 9.10 strikeouts per nine innings, Aaron Nola is first in Phillies history among starting pitchers with at least 300 innings. 

What's especially surprising about that stat is that Nola struck out 7.6 batters per nine innings in the minor leagues. He was not billed as a big strikeout guy but has missed more bats than ever before at the game's highest level.

• Rupp's towering home run last night was his 14th of the season and 30th since the start of 2016. Yasmani Grandal (45) and Willson Contreras (33) are the only National League catchers with more over that span.

• Adam Morgan in August: 13⅓ innings, 10 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 19 strikeouts. He looks like a changed man with a better fastball and a different grip on his slider. Perhaps he's finally carving out a role as a reliable lefty reliever. The Phils could sure use one.

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