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ATL@NYM: Santana legs out infield single in the 6th

After consecutive sweeps between the Braves and the Phillies, they could go for a tightly contested series. Philadelphia took three straight at Turner Field from June 16-18 before Atlanta roared back to dominate a four-game set from June 27-29.

This first series will be important for the Braves as they try to defend their 2013 National League East crown. Ten of their first 22 games out of the All-Star break come against division foes, including seven right out of the gate.

Meanwhile, the Phillies, who enter the break 10 games behind the Braves and the Nationals, could use the first part of the second half to gain some ground in a wide-open NL East. Fourteen of their next 24 games come against fellow division teams.

Toeing the rubber to begin the rest of the season are Ervin Santana and A.J. Burnett, two veterans hoping to give their new teams a final lift.

Santana appears to be turning a corner of late, recording a 3.82 ERA in his past five starts that looks much better than the 6.44 ERA he compiled in six starts from May 16 to June 12.

However, both stretches fell short of the 4-0 record and 1.99 ERA he posted in his first six turns in a Braves uniform. He aims to get back to that level and justify the one-year, $14.1 million deal Atlanta signed him to in March.

He gave up just one run through the first six innings of his most recent start, July 9, before falling apart in a three-run seventh against the Mets. The big blast was a two-run homer by Travis d'Arnaud with two outs.

Santana has given up five home runs with two outs compared to four with one out or none. The right-hander has also give up more runs (19) with two outs than with one out (18) or none (10).

"I just left that slider up, and that was the game right there," Santana said.

Burnett, meanwhile, is in quite a groove. He has seven straight quality starts, recording a 2.94 ERA and a .209 opponent batting average during that stretch. He pitched 7 2/3 two-run innings against the Nationals in his most recent start.

Braves: Avilan closes book on frustrating first half
After compiling a 1.52 ERA in 75 appearances last season, left-handed reliever Luis Avilan earned the nickname "Everyday Avilan." As he enters the All-Star break, he is searching for answers after a rough first half in 2014.

The southpaw owns a 4.85 ERA in 47 appearances out of the bullpen. He has given up earned runs in 10 outings, after doing so only 15 times in his 106 appearances out of the Atlanta 'pen between 2012 and '13.

He has had some time off recently, pitching just four times since July 1. But the rest has not helped, as he gave up two runs without recording an out on Sunday.

"I think so," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of whether the All-Star break could help Avilan. "Maybe he just needs a little breather, but he just came off a little breather."

Phillies: Giles holding opponents scoreless
Right-hander Ken Giles carried a streak of 13 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings into the All-Star break, having completed 12 straight scoreless outings. He last gave up a run against the Padres in his MLB debut on June 12.

Although Giles has surrendered four hits over his past three appearances, he has kept his streak alive by throwing strikes. He has walked only three batters in his 14 Major League innings and has not issued a base on balls since June 26, seven outings ago.

Worth noting
• The Braves' Chris Johnson notched his 30th multihit game of the season on Sunday. He recorded 23 of his 50 multihit games last season before the All-Star break.

• Atlanta and Philadelphia are two of the most efficient basestealing teams in the NL. The Phillies have swiped 63 bags in 79 attempts for a 79.7 percent success rate, the second highest. The Braves rank fourth with 55 steals in 72 tries for a 76.4 percent clip. Comments