Atlanta sits on top of the NL East division by two games over the New York Mets and carries a five-game lead over tonight’s opponent.  The Braves haven’t produced the National League’s second-best record by beating up on divisional opponents, coming in with an even 13-13 mark (-310).  The offense has compiled a .344 on-base percentage and 4.8 runs per game against right-handers, which has led the club to a 36-21 record in those games (+1,180).  Since snapping its season-high nine game losing streak on April 30, Atlanta owns the best record in the majors at 40-20.  The Braves have also gone 13-1-3 in their last 17 series dating back to May 10 against tonight’s opponent.

Braves starting pitcher Derek Lowe will meet tonight’s opposing starter for the first tiem as NL East rivals.  Lowe and Roy Halladay faced off numerous times in the AL East division as members of the Red Sox and Blue Jays respectively.  The right-hander is an even 3-3 with a 5.09 ERA in eight road starts this season.  In 17 career outings (13 starts) against the Phillies, he brings a solid 7-3 record and 3.26 ERA.  Tonight will be his fourth start of the year versus the two-time defending league champs, as he brings a 4-1 lifetime mark at Citizens Bank Park to the table.

Philadelphia is a team ravaged by injury, but manager Charlie Manuel still has to stress the importance of this series to his clubhouse.  “Any series we play against the Braves is bigger and any series we play right now is big,” he said.  “You start losing some games, it becomes more important.”  The Phillies had their six-game winning streak snapped in Fourth of July games on Sunday, as the team hoped the holiday would mark the beginning of its usual July dominance.  Philadelphia stands at 1-3 this month (-360), but produced a dominating 20-7 mark in July during the 2009 campaign.  Over the last three years, the Phillies are a moneymaking 36-20 (+1,140).

Phillies ace Roy Halladay is looking to bounce back from a subpar performance in his last outing and move his career record to a perfect 3-0 in four starts against the Braves.  In his previous outing on the road against Cincinnati, the right-hander allowed a season-high 13 hits over eight innings in a 4-3 defeat.  It was the fifth time this season that he allowed opponents to obtain double-digit hits, including three times in six starts last month.  Halladay is 5-4 with a 2.23 ERA in nine home starts this season, managing to strikeout 53 batters and just 10 free passes over 68.2 innings.

Bettors need to look past the pitching matchup from a side-betting standpoint and focus in on the total.  The Braves are 7-16 O/U against divisional opponents this season, while the Phillies are 13-16 O/U in the same situational spot.  The icing on the cake is the under being 4-0 in the last four meetings in Philadelphia.