Bryce Harper and the Phillies are Hot, Acuña and the Braves Not

The NL East is shaping up as we head into the summer months. The Atlanta Braves are slipping down the standings and power ranking after losing two straight series. What is happening in Atlanta that is causing this power outage, and how do they retake the Phillies in the East?

Bryce Harper and the Phillies’ Relentless Offensive Onslaught

At the heart of the Phillies’ blistering success lies the exceptional performance of their talisman, Bryce Harper. The former MVP has been an unstoppable force, launching towering home runs and driving in runs at a remarkable clip. Harper’s recent exploits include a game-tying three-run blast against the Giants.

Harper struggled to start the season, going back to April 15th when Harper was batting .190; since then, he has brought his average up to .243 and belted five long balls while leading the Phillies to a 17-3 record.

However, Harper’s contributions extend beyond his brilliance. The Phillies’ lineup has been a well-oiled machine, with players like J.T. Realmuto, Trea Turner, and Kyle Schwarber providing consistent offensive support. This balanced attack has overwhelmed opposing pitchers, making the Phillies one of the most formidable offensive units in the league, a complete contrast to what’s happening down south in Atlanta.

Unlike the Phillies’ offensive juggernaut, the Braves have been gripped by a perplexing hitting slump. Despite boasting a talented lineup, Ronald Acuña Jr., Matt Olson, and Austin Riley, the Braves have struggled to generate consistent run production. Riley and Olson were projected to hit 90 home runs between them at the beginning of the season and have just six on the season…combined. In the last 15 games, the pair have only mustered one homerun and nine RBIs as the Braves lost the series to the Mariners and were swept by the Dodgers.

The Braves, Meanwhile…

The Braves were outscored 35 runs compared to the Phillies 77 during the same period. Acuña is the only Brave to score more than five runs, as the Phillies have seven of their nine starters reach that feat. At the same time, Acuna has struck out 18 times while batting just .220 in this Braves 8-7 skid.

Compounding the Braves’ offensive struggles has been the inconsistent performance of their pitching staff. Once considered a strength, command issues have plagued the rotation and an inability to consistently work deep into games. Bryce Elder’s recent outing against the Dodgers exemplified these woes, as the young right-hander was chased from Sunday’s Dodgers game in the fourth inning, allowing seven runs on seven hits with four walks.

While the Phillies’ hot streak and the Braves’ slump are undeniable, we have to look at the strength of their respective schedules. The Phillies have benefited from facing opponents with a combined winning percentage of .458, the third-lowest in baseball. In contrast, the Braves have faced more of a challenge, with their opponents boasting a combined winning percentage of .488, the 21st toughest in the league.

The Phillies are getting it done, and the Braves are not. The Braves held a decent lead in the NL East 15 games ago; they now trail the Phillies by 2.5 games. The Braves host the Red Sox and their surprisingly effective pitching staff for two games before traveling to play the Mets this weekend. Hopefully, they can get the power back in the lineup and start getting runs to the plate.

Main Image: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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