Phillies

Phillies

Phillies (60-75) vs. Braves (53-83)
1:35 p.m. on CSN

The Phillies have played five games this week and lost all five, all of which were home games.

Can they salvage a win out of the homestand?

They'll turn to rookie right-hander Jake Thompson to stop the bleeding Sunday afternoon against Braves' ace Julio Teheran before heading out on the road.

Here are five things to know for their series finale with Atlanta.

1. Figuring it out
For all the anticipation for Thompson's big-league debut, the beginning to his MLB career was underwhelming. The 22-year-old righty struggled to go past the fifth inning (like the rest of the rotation) and didn't seem to have his trademark command in his first four starts.

Through four career starts, Thompson had a 9.78 ERA, allowing 21 runs in 19⅓ innings. He had allowed 22 hits and walked 13, while surrendering five home runs. Opposing batters had a .289 batting average and .605 slugging percentage against him. 

But facing a strong Nationals lineup Monday, Thompson finally displayed what made fans so excited for his debut. Despite taking home the loss, Thompson produced his first quality start. He allowed just two runs and seven hits over seven strong innings. He turned the Nats' lineup over three times and walked just one batter. 

He's thrown 156 innings between the majors and minors this year, easily surpassing his career-high of 132⅔ innings set last season. Considering he's just 22 years old, it wouldn't be surprising if Thompson only made a few more starts this year before being shut down like Vince Velasquez

 

Regardless, after Monday's good results, Thompson finally has a taste of major league success before trying to hold a rotation spot full-time next season. A matchup with the Braves on Sunday is a chance to get yet another taste.

2. Ace is a relative term
It's really easy to call Teheran the Braves' ace. Not simply because he's performed well, but also because there isn't much competition for the title.

No Braves pitcher has made as many starts as Teheran this season and none of Atlanta's other starters have an ERA within a run of Teheran. Mike Foltynewicz's 4.31 ERA is the closest to Teheran's 3.12 mark.

Unfortunately for Teheran, ERA and the title of ace doesn't always translate to wins. After going 11-8 with a 4.04 ERA last season, he's 4-9 this season thanks to the Braves' paltry offense. 

Teheran is just three starts removed from a stint on the disabled list. He missed nearly three weeks with a lat strain, which could explain why August was his worst month, posting a 5.50 ERA in 18 innings.

In his only start against the Phillies this year, the 25-year-old righty picked up yet another loss. He gave up three runs and five hits over five innings on July 30, his last start before going on the DL. The big blow in that game was a two-run double off the bat of Jeremy Hellickson.

3. Replacing Vince Velasquez
Velasquez finished his 2016 season with one of his better starts, going seven innings while allowing just three runs. He left with a lead, but the bullpen squandered it before losing in 10 innings. 

Pete Mackanin said after the game it was Velasquez's last start of the season, somewhat unsurprising considering he threw 136 innings this year, 11⅓ more than his previous career-high set in 2013. 

The Phillies don't have a day off (barring a rain out) until Sept. 19, so they will have the fill his rotation spot the next few times through. Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin and Charlie Morton are all already out for the season, leaving the Phils with little pitching depth for the final month of the season.

One option to replace him is Alec Asher. Set to turn 25 years old in a month, Asher is currently making rehab starts in the minors after he was suspended 80 games for PEDs. Asher made his debut in 2015 after coming over from Texas in the Cole Hamels trade. 

The righty went 0-6 with a 9.31 ERA, battered around by big-league hitting. Asher happened to make a rehab appearance Saturday with Double A Reading, so he is on turn with Velasquez.

The Phils also have a few options in Triple A and 40-man roster. David Buchanan, who made 35 starts for the Phillies from 2014-15, is in Lehigh Valley's rotation. Phil Klein is another candidate after making a spot start agaisnt the Giants earlier this season. Ben Lively, 24, picked up his 11th win Friday and has been on a roll toward the end of the year, although he is not on the 40-man roster.

 

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Cesar Hernandez shook off a hitless streak Saturday, lining a solo homer into the right-field seats in the third inning. Can he get himself on another hitting streak?

Braves: After a double Saturday, veteran outfielder Matt Kemp has eight hits in his last four games, including four in this series with the Phillies.

5. This and that
• Teheran has been solid against the Phillies in his career. Over 13 games, he has a 6-4 record with a 2.47 ERA. In 83⅔ innings, he has 62 strikeouts to just 14 walks and also has a complete game shutout.

• Ryan Howard has just five hits in 26 at-bats against Teheran, but he has made them count. He has two doubles and two home runs off the righty. Freddy Galvis is 6 for 16 against him with two walks while Cameron Rupp is 5 for 16 with a walk.

• Thompson faced the Braves' Triple A affiliate earlier this year. The only player on the Braves' active roster to play in that game was backup catcher Anthony Recker, who went 1 for 4 with a double.

• During their five-game losing streak, the Phillies have been outscored, 23-11.