Phillies

MLB Notes: Dodgers acquire Curtis Granderson from Mets

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MLB Notes: Dodgers acquire Curtis Granderson from Mets

NEW YORK -- The Los Angeles Dodgers have acquired outfielder Curtis Granderson and cash from the New York Mets for a player to be named later or cash.

The teams announced the deal after their games Friday night. The 36-year-old Granderson is hitting .228 with 19 home runs and 52 RBIs this year.

Los Angeles is running away with the NL West. The Dodgers are 86-34 after Friday's win at Detroit . Granderson gives Los Angeles another option for the outfield along with Cody Bellinger, Yasiel Puig, Chris Taylor and Joc Pederson.

Pederson has been struggling quite a bit of late, hitting .149 since the All-Star break. Granderson, like Pederson, offers some power from the left side of the plate.

This is Granderson's fourth team as he started with Tigers then went to Yankees. He signed a $60 million, four-year contract with the Mets before the 2014 season. He hit 95 home runs -- including a grand slam in his final at-bat -- for the Mets in 573 games and was part of the team that won the National League pennant in 2015 (see full story).

Nationals: Scherzer placed on DL with sore neck
SAN DIEGO -- Max Scherzer was scratched from his scheduled start Friday night and placed on the 10-day disabled list with a sore neck.

The Washington Nationals turned to left-hander Matt Grace to face the San Diego Padres.

Manager Dusty Baker announced the move about two hours before first pitch.

Scherzer was coming off a 10-strikeout performance against San Francisco.

Grace is 1-0 with a 4.46 ERA. He grew up in the Los Angeles area and played at UCLA.

Scherzer is 12-5 with a 2.25 ERA this season.

Cubs: Lester placed on 10-day DL
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs got an encouraging report on Jon Lester before placing the ace left-hander on the 10-day disabled list on Friday.

Lester was examined by team physician Dr. Stephen Gryzlo after he left Chicago's 13-10 loss to Cincinnati on Thursday in the second inning. He was diagnosed with tightness in his left lat and general shoulder fatigue, but his shoulder and side were deemed structurally sound.

"I think the big thing is just the overall performance was not there," Lester said. "This is something that we tried to manage and get through. It just got to a point where you're doing a disservice to your team by going out there and not being able to perform.

"You feel like you can't help (going on the DL), but at the same time I wasn't helping out there. Let's get this thing right and get back to being myself" (see full story).

Dodgers: Gonzalez activated from DL
DETROIT -- The Los Angeles Dodgers have activated first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the disabled list, and he's set to start Friday night against Detroit.

The 35-year-old Gonzalez has missed over two months because of a herniated lumbar disk. He last played for the Dodgers on June 11.

Gonzalez went 6 for 31 with a home run and six RBIs during a nine-game rehab assignment with Class A Rancho Cucamonga and Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Don't expect to see Vince Velasquez for long tonight vs. Braves

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Don't expect to see Vince Velasquez for long tonight vs. Braves

The Phillies send Vince Velasquez to the mound tonight to begin their crucial four-game series in Atlanta, but don’t expect to see him for long. It doesn’t fit with how Gabe Kapler has used the back of his rotation in September or with how Velasquez has pitched lately. 

Since Aug. 8, Velasquez has averaged under 4.0 innings per start. In seven games, he’s pitched just 25 1/3 innings. His last time out, he faced 10 batters. 

Velasquez’s numbers against the Braves earlier this season (0-4, 7.41 ERA) were ugly, but it’s a different situation this time. He isn’t being relied on to pitch six innings. He almost certainly will not be relied on to face the top of the order a third time through, especially with left-handed Freddie Freeman in the three-spot. 

Get ready for plenty of pitching changes tonight. However boring or monotonous it may be at times, it’s logical to have lefties face Freeman and Nick Markakis each time from the middle innings onward. Obviously, you want a righty in there for Ronald Acuña Jr. 

With a dozen men in the bullpen this month, the Phillies have averaged nearly 4.5 relievers per game in September. Bet the over on that number tonight. 

Everyone other than Pat Neshek should be available to pitch. Neshek has gone back to back games. He hasn’t pitched three straight nights at any point this season or last. 

What's changed with Braves in 4 months since Phillies last saw them?

What's changed with Braves in 4 months since Phillies last saw them?

Finally, for the first time in nearly four months, the Phillies get a chance to take out their frustrations on the Braves.

Tonight begins a four-game series in Atlanta and nobody needs to tell you how crucial it is. The Phils are 5½ games back in the NL East with 11 games left to play. Seven are against the Braves. 

Any combination of six Braves wins or Phillies losses will result in Atlanta clinching the division.

The schedule isn't ordinarily this lopsided, but the Phillies played 12 of their first 47 games against the Braves, then went 104 games without seeing them again. The Phils went 5-7 in those dozen games, losing three of the four series.

So, what has changed since the Phillies last saw the Braves?

The Acuña effect

Ronald Acuña Jr. is one of three main candidates for NL Rookie of the Year, along with Washington's Juan Soto and St. Louis' Jack Flaherty. 

Acuña has played 101 games this season and hit .293/.368/.573 with 26 homers, 25 doubles and four triples. He's also stolen 14 bases in 19 attempts. 

The Phillies haven't seen much of him. He played just six of the 12 games, and they were all before Acuña really took off this season. Since June 30, Acuña has hit .309 in 70 games with 21 of his homers and an OPS over 1.000.

He's one of the league's most dynamic players, especially out of the leadoff spot. Can beat you with power, by splitting the gap, with his wheels or with his defense.

Tired bullpen

The Braves' bullpen was the main contributor to the four-game losing streak that was snapped Wednesday. In those four losses, the Braves' relievers allowed 16 earned runs in 18⅓ innings. In each of the four games, the bullpen turned a one-run deficit into a much larger one.

Arodys Vizcaino, the opening-day closer, has made just 35 appearances this season, missing much of the year with injuries. Lately, Atlanta has used a mix of A.J. Minter, Jonny Venters and occasionally Dan Winkler in the closer's role. Both Minter and Winkler have stumbled a bit since the All-Star break after pitching well and reliably in the first half. 

There's some cruel irony in former Phillies first-round pick Jesse Biddle's season-long success in the Braves' bullpen.

Rotation edge?

The four pitching matchups in this series are:

Vince Velasquez (9-11, 4.50) vs. Kevin Gausman (5-2, 2.61)

Nick Pivetta (7-13, 4.67) vs. Julio Teheran (9-8, 3.97)

Jake Arrieta (10-9, 3.77) vs. LHP Sean Newcomb (12-9, 4.04)

Aaron Nola (16-5, 2.44) vs. Mike Foltynewicz (11-10, 2.90)

Atlanta has gotten a strong return on investment since acquiring Gausman from the Orioles in one of the last trades announced before the July 31 deadline. 

In eight starts with the Braves, Gausman has allowed 0, 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 3 and 4 runs. The Braves are 6-2.

Newcomb has really fallen off in the second half of his first full season. His ERA's by month since May: 1.54, 2.67, 5.06, 6.75, 6.08.

Foltynewicz has had a breakout season, mostly because he's dominated the NL East. He has a 1.96 ERA against the Phillies in four starts and a 1.83 ERA in 14 starts vs. the division as a whole.

The Phillies should, theoretically, have the starting pitching advantage when Nola and Arrieta pitch, but Arrieta hasn't been all that strong lately. He has a 6.03 ERA in his last seven starts and the Phillies have lost five of them. 

The expectation is that Velasquez and Pivetta will go five innings max in their starts this week because it's September, there are more than a dozen relievers in the bullpen and Gabe Kapler has been pulling those two at the first sign of danger.

Saturday afternoon, the Phils badly, badly need Arrieta to recapture the release point and command he had in May and July.

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