As spring training started five months ago, you'd have to circle this week's series between the Braves and Phillies as can't-miss action.
Two franchises that have dominated the National League East for the better part of 15 years, both of which were expected to be in contention for a division title this season. What better to help separate the two than a three-game series in Philadelphia to kick off the second-to-last month of the regular season?
For the Braves, they've done about as well as anyone could have hoped. The pitching staff and lineup have been a bit inconsistent at times, but everything appears to be coming together at the right time. As for the Phillies, you're hardly going to recognize them.
Carlos Ruiz was recently placed on the disabled list and will be out 4-6 weeks. Shane Victorino is now in Los Angeles, as is Joe Blanton. Hunter Pence was shipped to San Francisco for prospects. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins are all entering the twilight of what have been remarkable careers.
When was the last time the Phillies were the ones trading for prospects and deemed "sellers" at the trade deadline? This is a team just 18 months removed from the talk of potentially having the best starting rotation of all time.
All of their personnel losses aside, this club will keep battling for manager Charlie Manuel. They've won four of their last six following being swept in Atlanta last weekend, including a wild walk-off win against the Diamondbacks on Sunday.
This being said, the Braves really need to capitalize in week. They miss Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, and they'll send their three best starters to the mound. With the Nationals likely to beat up on the Astros this week, Atlanta cannot afford multiple losses or they'll keep dropping back in the standings.
Here are the pitching matchups and start times for each game.
Monday, 7:05 p.m. EST - Ben Sheets (3-1, 1.46 ERA) vs. Vance Worley (6-6, 3.63 ERA)
Tuesday, 7:05 p.m. - Mike Minor (6-7, 5.01 ERA) vs. Cole Hamels (11-6, 3.34 ERA)
Wednesday, 7:05 p.m. - Tim Hudson (11-4, 3.45 ERA) vs. Kyle Kendrick (4-9, 4.45 ERA)
For more on the Braves, head over to Talking Chop.