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National League Preview from The Sports Network



Sunday, September 2nd (All times Eastern)

Philadelphia Phillies (64-69) at Atlanta Braves (74-59), 5:05 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Philadelphia - Cole Hamels (14-6, 2.99) Atlanta - Paul Maholm (11-9, 3.44)

(Sports Network) - The Atlanta Braves picked a bad time to struggle against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Things don't get any easier for the playoff-hopeful Braves on Sunday afternoon as they face a streaking Phillies starter in Cole Hamels, who seeks a career high-tying 15th win of the season in this finale of a three-game set.

The Braves had won nine of 12 against the Phillies prior to this series, but are now in danger of getting swept at home by the NL East rivals. The two setbacks have prevented Atlanta -- which owns the first wild card position in the league -- from making up ground on the first-place Washington Nationals, who own a 6 1/2-game lead for the top spot.

Atlanta was silenced by Philadelphia starter Cliff Lee on Saturday. The lefty tossed seven scoreless innings of five-hit ball, striking out five to win consecutive starts for the first time this season.

Jimmy Rollins hit a solo homer to lead a balanced attack that helped Philadelphia win its third straight and seventh in nine tries.

"I think we're just playing better, well-rounded baseball," Lee said.

Martin Prado homered for the Braves, who have dropped three straight, while Tim Hudson took the loss after yielding five runs over five-plus innings for his first defeat since July 1.

"I'm worried about the offense, I'm not worried about the other parts of our game," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I feel like we're healthy, which we weren't last year, we're pitching well. ... It seems like our offense, when it goes bad, it goes bad. We're not keeping the line moving offensively and we've got to fix that or rectify that somehow."

Gonzalez saw his offense shut down by Hamels in the last meeting on Aug. 7 in Philadelphia, where the left-hander tossed a five-hit shutout to beat Atlanta for the first time in three starts this year.

That win, the 12th of Hamels' career versus the Braves, started a four-game unbeaten streak for the 28-year-old. who rolled to three wins in a row himself before not factoring into a 4-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Aug. 23.

Hamels allowed three runs for a second straight start as well as six hits and three walks in six frames.

He was supposed to start on Wednesday, but was scratched from the outing due to a stomach illness. Now on nine days' rest, Hamels will try to match the personal-best 15 wins he recorded in 2007. This season, he is 14-6 with a 2.99 earned run average over 25 starts.

Hamels will be opposed by a fellow lefty in Paul Maholm, who makes his sixth start with the Braves since coming over in a trade with the Chicago Cubs.

Maholm is 2-3 with a 2.45 ERA with Atlanta and has yielded six homers in the five starts. He has dropped back-to-back outings, though he pitched well enough to win on Monday at San Diego despite not logging at least seven innings for the first time since the trade.

The 30-year-old dropped a 3-0 decision, giving up two runs on eight hits and walk in 6 2/3 frames.

Maholm beat the Phillies on April 27 while with the Cubs, giving up a run over 6 1/3 innings while moving to 4-2 with a 4.11 ERA lifetime in this matchup over eight starts.

09/02 10:32:05 ET