Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Ervin Santana (30) waits for a new baseball after giving up a home run to Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard (not pictured) in the second inning at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Phillies at Atlanta Braves preview: Back from the All-Star break

Greetings! It is time to kick off the second half of the 2014 Major League Baseball season, and for the Atlanta Braves, it is an opportunity to pursue a division title. In the first game after the break, the Braves will host the Philadelphia Phillies in the opener of a three-game set, and Fredi Gonzalez has elected to hand the ball to Ervin Santana in opposition of A.J. Burnett for Philadelphia.

Santana had an up-and-down first half of the season, with a blazing hot start followed by some ugliness and a balancing act in recent days. Still, the big right-hander has posted reasonable numbers (4.01 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) and this Phillies offense doesn’t exactly inspire a great deal of fear in opposing pitchers. Ryan Howard (who is a certified Braves-killer) and Chase Utley will be the match-ups to watch for Santana, but if he can navigate the land mines, getting off to a good start should be in the cards.

On the opposite side, Burnett is another example of an up-and-down pitcher with big time talent. He surpasses Santana in ERA with a 3.83 mark, but the 37-year-old is lacking in the peripherals a bit this season, and the Braves should have the chance to put up some numbers if his control betrays him. Cole Hamels lurks in game two of the series, so it would be beneficial for the home team to batter Burnett in the opener.

Here is a look at the particulars for Thursday:

Date: July 18, 2014

Start Time: 7:35 pm ET

TV Channel: Fox Sports South

Radio: 680 AM/106.7 FM (Local in Atlanta), Full list of Local Affiliates

Live Stream: (Click Here, $)

Be sure to follow us on Twitter (@ATLBeatBlog) for more information (including all of your Atlanta Braves action), and check back after the game for a full recap. Sound off in the comments!

Tags: Atlanta Braves

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