Phillies (37-46) vs. Braves (28-54)
4:05 p.m. on CSN
The Phillies, winners of seven of their last 10 following Sunday's 7-2 win over the defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals, start a three-game set with the Atlanta Braves with an Independence Day matinee at Citizens Bank Park.
Here are five things to get you ready for the matchup:
Complete coverage of the Fightin' Phils and their MLB rivals from NBC Sports Philadelphia.
1. Jerad getting the job done
Remember earlier this season when nothing could go right for Jerad Eickhoff, whose record once sat at 2-8 and whose ERA once ballooned to 4.44? Seems like ancient history, doesn't it?
Since being saddled with a hard-luck loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on June 8 when he gave up just two earned runs in 6 2/3 innings pitched, Eickhoff, who celebrated his 26th this past Saturday, has easily been the Phillies' most consistent and reliable starter. In his last five starts, he's gone 4-1 with a 2.12 ERA and given up just seven earned runs while striking out 27 and walking 11. Impressive numbers, even moreso when you consider two of those starts came against the Chicago Cubs and Toronto Blue Jays, both teams loaded with offensive firepower. For the season, Eickhoff enters Monday's game with a 5-9 record and 3.38 ERA.
June was good to Eickhoff and July could get off on much the same foot as he's facing a Braves team Monday that has the second-worst record in baseball. Atlanta also owns the worst offense in all of baseball.
The Braves are dead last in the majors in the following categories through 82 games: batting average (.238), runs scored (280), home runs (43), RBI (262), extra-base hits (191), slugging (.342) and OPS (.644).
Chipper Jones and Fred McGriff ain't walking through that door anytime soon.
2. The Cody and Cameron show
Two huge reasons behind the Phillies' recent surge have been the hot bats of Cody Asche and Cameron Rupp. Both players have been red-hot at the dish in recent weeks.
Since the Phillies scored 10 runs, albeit in a losing effort, in Minnesota on June 21, Asche is hitting .368 with a homer, seven doubles and eight RBI. It's that kind offensive pop the Phils were lacking from their corner outfielders earlier this year when Asche began the season on the DL with his oblique injury and missed two months. Earlier this year, finding offense from a Phillies outfielder was like finding water in the desert.
In that same span since June 21, Rupp has hit a blistering .406 with four homers, three doubles and eight RBI. In a stat you don't see very often, the catcher leads the team with 16 doubles.
These two have given the Phillies a much-needed spark. Their momentum has a good chance of pushing forward on Monday when they face a rookie making his second career start. Speaking of which...
3. Who is Jose De La Cruz?
For one, he's Monday's Braves starter. He made his debut last week and wasn't bad at all. He gave up just three runs over six innings but the Braves' lousy offense couldn't back him up in a 3-0 loss to the red-hot Indians.
The 27-year-old De La Cruz is a minor-league journeyman who's spent the better part of nine seasons roaming the minors (mostly in the Yankees organization.) But he wasn't great at Triple A Gwinnett before the Braves called him up for his start last week. At Gwinnett this season, De La Cruz went 1-3 with a 4.68 ERA in 21 appearances, five of which were starts.
But, hey, when you're this season's Braves, what can it hurt tossing a guy such as De La Cruz out there to see if he can stick?
4. Keep an eye on...
Braves: Freddie Freeman is the only Braves regular hitting above .260 this season (not counting second basemen Gordon Beckham and Jace Peterson as both have split time this season.) Freeman also has a history of destroying Phillies pitching. In his career against the Phils, Freeman is hitting .299 with 13 homers and 61 RBI. He's taken Eickhoff deep before, too.
Phillies: Peter Bourjos enters Monday's game on an 11-game hit streak, tying Odubel Herrera's April streak for longest by a Phillie this season. Since June 21, Bourjos is batting .447 with two homers, two triples and six RBI. In that span, Bourjos has raised his average from .229 to to .268 and cemented his spot as the Phils' starting rightfielder.
5. This and that
• The Braves will be playing in a different city for the third straight day. They faced the Marlins in Atlanta on Saturday before the scene shifted to a makeshift field at the army post in Fort Bragg, North Carolina for the series finale with the Marlins on Sunday night. After that, it was off to Philadelphia.
• When the Phillies last played the Braves on May 22, they were 25-19 and just two games behind the NL East-leading Washington Nationals. Since then, the Phils are just 11-27 and have fallen 13 games back of the Nats.
• Over their last 13 games, the Phillies are averaging 5.73 runs.
• Both teams will wear special Independence Day-themed jerseys on Monday, as will every team in the majors. The Braves wore a home version of theirs for Sunday night’s game at Fort Bragg.