Phillies-Braves 5 Things: Phillies, Hellickson Aim for Home Sweep

Phillies (39-46) vs. Braves (28-56)
1:05 p.m. on CSN

In the middle of a three-game win streak, the Phillies go with veteran righty Jeremy Hellickson against fill-in starter Tyrell Jenkins and the Braves in a Wednesday matinee.

Five things to know for this afternoon.

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1. Bringing out the brooms
There's nothing quite like the Braves to extend a hot streak. 

With the Phillies regaining a bit of their early season magic, the Braves marched into Citizens Bank Park for July 4th like a Yankee Doodle dud of a baseball team. Atlanta has scored just three runs during this series while allowing 13 runs to the Phillies' offense, which was sputtering until a few weeks ago.

Is it time for a game of Supermarket Sweeps? It may just be. 

The Braves have been swept eight times this season, mostly thanks to an anemic offense. The team is a long ways away from their next playoff birth.

Meanwhile, the Phillies are as hot as they've been in two months. They've won 7 of their last eight games for the first time since April 20-May 1, when they won 8 of 9. The Phils also have three straight series wins for the first time since May, when they won four straight including taking two of three from the Braves.

But today is a chance to break out the brooms against the NL East cellar dwellers. The Phillies haven't swept the Braves since June 16-18, 2014 and haven't done so at Citizens Bank park since Sept. 6-8, 2013. In the latter series, the Phillies wins came from Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon and Cole Hamels.  

2. Audition time?
The trade deadline is less than a month away and the Phillies are feeling out the trade market (see full story).

With that in mind, Hellickson's start on Wednesday becomes a little more interesting for Phillies fans hoping to get something in a trade for the impending free agent starter.

Hellickson has never faced the Atlanta Braves, although he has some experience against individual Braves hitters (see below). The offense in Atlanta has been downright offensive, presenting Hellickson an opportunity to continue his string of three straight quality starts.

After some early June issues, the 29-year-old righty has been exemplary in his last few starts. Facing the Giants and Royals his last two turns, he held two strong offenses to just one earned run while giving up just five hits and a walk to each squad. 

There are plenty of reasons contending teams may want Hellickson. For starters, after three consecutive seasons filled with disappointment, he has the best strikeout and walk rates of his career. His relatively high home run rates can partially be explained away by his home ballpark, which is unforgiving for fly ball pitchers.

But another key is the number of teams in contention right now. 18 teams are either in a playoff spot or within 2.5 games of one. Teams in those spots or similarly close (the Yankees are 4.0 games back of a playoff spot) may not be buyers on the market, but their starting pitchers are less likely to be available. Therefore, a veteran starter like Hellickson on a definite non-contender becomes all the more valuable. 

So a start like today is all the more important to establishing his value. 

3. Spot starter
The Phillies were originally scheduled to face Braves All Star Julio Teheran in the concluding game of this series. Teheran, who has been the subject of many trade rumors with the Braves mired in last place, has an infection in his right thigh and went home to Atlanta to seek treatment.

So in steps Tyrell Jenkins, a rookie with four career appearances, to make his first career start. He is not fully stretched out (longest outing in MLB is 58 pitches), so he will be limmited to around 75 pitches on Wednesday.

Atlanta is of course in the midst of a rebuild and wants to get a look at its prospects as the team crawls back to contention. Jenkins was the Braves' No. 7 prospect going into the season according to MLB.com. He began the year with AAA Gwinnett, where the 23 year old is 3.7 years younger than the average player in the International League. 

He's been a professional player since he was 17 years old after he was drafted 50th overall in the 1st round of the 2010 MLB draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. Jenkins spent five years in the Cardinals system before moving to Atlanta in the Shelby Miller-Jason Heyward trade. 

In his rise through the minors, he struggled with walks at times and that has followed him to the majors. He has six walks (and six strikeouts) in 9 1/3 innings pitched, contributing to his 5.79 ERA. He has also given up 12 hits.

He excelled in the minors at avoiding home runs, allowing fewer than one per nine innings. However, the big leagues can be rough. He's allowed two already in his short major league career. 

Jenkins has used mostly a low-to-mid 90s fastball and low-to-mid 80s slider in his time in the majors, earning more strikeouts but surrendering better contact with the slider. He also has a change-up and curveball that he will likely need to use as a starter. 

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Peter Bourjos may have a 14-game hitting streak, but he isn't the only player swinging a hot bat. Cody Asche has seven hits in his last five starts, five of which have gone for extra bases (three doubles and two home runs).

Braves: Former Phillie alert! Jeff Francoeur, who spent last season with the Phillies, is in his 12th MLB season. He doesn't have very strong numbers against the Phils in his career, but he's been successful at Citizens Bank Park. He has a .290 average with 16 home runs and 17 doubles in 362 at-bats at CBP. 

5. This and that
• Jenkins is 0-for-2 in two MLB at-bats. He was 2-for-22 with seven strikeouts in the minors. Not exactly a magician with the bat in a small sample size.

• Hellickson has faced only one batter more often than Braves OF Nick Markakis. Most of the 43 plate appearances came with Hellickson on the Tampa Bay Rays and Markakis on the Baltimore Orioles.

• Markakis is 9-for-41 against Hellickson with two home runs, two walks and three strikeouts. He has a .220/.256/.390 triple slash line against the righty.

• Erick Aybar is 2-for-9 against Hellickson. Francoeur is 2-for-8 vs. Hellickson with two doubles and four strikeouts.

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