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Preview: Cole Hamels Takes The Hill For Game One Of Phillies Braves Series

(Sports Network) - With six games left this year between the Phillies and Braves, the National League East won't be decided during this three-game series.

That doesn't make this series any less important.

First-place Philadelphia will look to match a season-high with an eighth straight victory and pad its three-game advantage over Atlanta, which aims for a fourth consecutive win this evening at Citizens Bank Park.

Looking to get back into the postseason for the first time since 2005 in what is expected to be manager Bobby Cox's final season, the Braves led the NL East by as many as seven games on July 22. However, Atlanta has played close to .500 ball since and finally fell out of the top spot after a loss to the Pirates on Sept. 7.

Philadelphia, meanwhile, has won 19 of its last 23 games, including each of its last seven for its longest win streak since a season-best eight-game run from July 22-29.

But while the Phillies enter this set in first place, it is the Braves who may have the advantage. They have own five of the last six games played between the two clubs and own a 7-5 edge in the season series.

Philly and Atlanta close out the regular season with three games in Atlanta from Oct. 1-3.

"It's a big series," Derrek Lee told Atlanta's website. "Obviously they have great pitching and they have a great offense. But I like our team, too. So I think it's going to be a good series. We'll see what happens."

The Phillies are coming off back-to-back three-game sweeps of Florida and Washington and had to rally in Sunday's finale with the Nationals to keep their win streak intact. Philadelphia entered the ninth inning down by three runs, but cut that deficit to one on Ryan Howard's two-run single before Jayson Werth connected on a walk-off two-run homer for a 7-6 victory.

"It looked like we were dead in the water, then all of a sudden, we had a resurgence," said Philadelphia outfielder Shane Victorino. "That's what this team does so well. We keep playing. We play 27 outs."

The victory helped the Phillies maintain their edge over the Braves, who also won in powerful fashion on Sunday. Lee broke a tie game with a seventh-inning grand slam with two outs, leading Atlanta to a three-game sweep of New York.

It was just Atlanta's second road sweep of the season and it came in the opener of a nine-game road trip. It also gave the Braves a 2 1/2-game edge over the Padres for the NL's Wild Card spot.

Atlanta will be seeking its first four-game winning streak since posting five victories in a row from Aug. 28-Sept. 1, while the Phillies will look to lower their magic number of 10 to claim a fourth straight NL East title.

The pitching edge appears to favor the Phillies tonight.

Philadelphia's Cole Hamels is riding a four-start winning streak and he pitched 22 shutout innings over the first three victories before giving up just a run on five hits over 6 2/3 innings in Florida on Tuesday. The southpaw fanned a season-high 13 in that 2-1 victory and has pitched well in close games this year.

Though the Phils have scored two runs or less in six of Hamels' last eight starts, the 26-year-old has pitched to a 1.62 earned run average in that span.

Hamels is 11-10 with a 3.01 ERA this year and 8-5 with a 4.25 ERA lifetime versus the Braves. He got a no-decision against them on July 6, yielding three runs over seven innings.

Jair Jurrjens countered Hamels that day, also getting a no-decision with six innings of three-run ball, and will do so again tonight. However, the 24-year- old has lost consecutive starts since a four-decision win streak, getting hammered for seven runs and 10 hits over 3 2/3 innings versus the Cardinals on Sept. 9 before yielding four runs over five innings of a 6-0 setback to the Nationals on Tuesday.

The right-handed Jurrjens fell to 7-6 with a 4.64 ERA this year and is 3-3 with a 2.56 ERA in nine career starts against Philadelphia.