Braves go for NL East clincher against Phillies

(AP Photo/John Bazemore)

(AP) -- ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves, losers of at least 90 games each of the past three seasons, can clinch an unlikely National League East title on Saturday.

Mike Foltynewicz (11-10, 2.90 ERA) will get the start for the Braves at SunTrust Park as they try to close out the second-place Philadelphia Phillies with more than a week remaining in the regular season.

Foltynewicz, a first-time All-Star in 2018, will be opposed by former Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta (10-9, 3.77 ERA) as the Phillies try to avoid elimination for at least another day after losing the first two games of the series.

The Braves (86-68) went to work late in both games against the bullpen of the Phillies (78-75), winning 6-5 on Friday night after an 8-3 victory in the series opener the previous night.

With a 7 1/2-game lead and the magic number down to two, the Braves can clinch first place before their home fans on Sunday if they don't do it Saturday.

Cy Young candidate Aaron Nola (16-5, 2.44 ERA) will start the series finale for the Phillies, with Anibal Sanchez (6-6, 2.44 ERA) getting the call for Atlanta.

The Braves play their final six games on the road, including a three-game series -- that was once highly anticipated -- in Philadelphia to end the regular season.

It was Sean Newcomb's turn to start on Saturday for the Braves, but the struggling left-hander was skipped and put in the bullpen for the time being despite leading the team with 12 victories.

Newcomb's 12 wins top the Braves, but he posted an 11.34 ERA while losing his past four home starts.

"I don't think he needed a break. He just wasn't pitching that great," Braves manager Brian Snitker said of the 25-year-old. "I talked to him about that. We are going to go with the other guys pretty much. Just trying to pitch the guys who were going a little better."

Foltynewicz is 1-1 with a 1.96 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 23 innings in four starts versus the Phillies this season, and 4-3 with a 3.51 ERA in 11 career outings against them.

The 26-year-old right-hander failed to last at least five innings for just the second time this season in a loss to St. Louis on Monday, but he had pitched a complete game in his previous start at San Francisco.

Arietta is 4-1 with a 2.29 ERA in six career starts against the Braves, carrying over the previous success he had with the Chicago Cubs to his lone outing for the Phillies this season.

The 32-year-old right-hander worked 6 2/3 scoreless innings in a victory at Philadelphia on May 23, allowing seven hits and a walk while striking out seven.

Arrieta's performance has been in decline the past eight weeks or so, mirroring the downturn of his team. Since pitching eight scoreless innings on Aug. 3 at Arizona, he has gone 1-3 with a 6.02 ERA in seven starts.

"What's done is done. I've got to move forward and just try to be better," Arrieta said.

Updated September 22, 2018