Don't look now, but the Braves are running away with the National League East.
After playing .500 ball for much of the past two months, Atlanta entered this weekend's series against Philadelphia with an 11 1/2-game lead in the division, their largest since Sept. 21, 2003. With their 6-4 victory on Friday night, the Braves have won eight straight, and have outscored their opponents, 57-20, during that span.
"This is not the kind of production you're going to get for 162 games," Braves catcher Brian McCann said, "but this is what we're capable of. When we get hot, we're as good of a hitting team as there is in baseball. I hope we keep this momentum going for the rest of the way out."
Atlanta has picked the perfect time to get hot, as each of its next 16 games are against division opponents. With two series each against the Phillies and Nationals during that span, the Braves could all but lock up the NL East by the end of the month.
Brandon Beachy will try to help them get one step closer to that goal on Saturday in his second start since returning from Tommy John surgery. Beachy couldn't get out of the fourth inning in his first start back, in which he allowed seven runs on eight hits and two home runs.
The Phillies, meanwhile, will hand the ball to John Lannan on short rest in place of Jonathan Pettibone, who was placed on the disabled list on Friday with a strained right shoulder. Lannan has gone at least seven innings in three of his past four starts, and he has a 2.67 ERA in that span.
The Phillies will need Lannan to continue that trend if they are to end their recent skid. They've lost 11 of 13 games since the All-Star break, prompting such players as closer Jonathan Papelbon to speak out. Papelbon, who told MLB.com earlier this week that he "definitely didn't come here for this," followed that by blowing a save in Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Giants.
"Whether I blow a game or whether I save a game, whatever is happening within the organization, I feel like I'm honest and forthcoming, and I'm the same way after games like tonight," Papelbon said on Thursday. "That's the way I've always been. I go by facts, and I stand by what I say. I don't feel like I said anything that wasn't true."
Braves: B.J. Upton set to return
Having recovered from a strained right adductor, an injury he sustained on July 12, outfielder B.J. Upton likely concluded his rehab assignment on Friday night, when he went 1-for-5 with a double and three strikeouts for Triple-A Gwinnett against Charlotte. Barring any setbacks, he is expected to rejoin Atlanta's lineup in Philadelphia on Saturday.
Upton is hitting just .177 in 84 games this season, but hitting coach Greg Walker believes he can return to his old self at the plate. Walker watched video of Upton's game on Thursday night, when he went 3-for-4 with two doubles, and came away impressed.
"I saw a couple of his hits, and they were mechanically and technically perfect," Walker said. "He pounded the ball to right-center. That's a great sign for me. Let's just see if he can keep repeating it. But it looked a lot like B.J. Upton to me."
• Paul Maholm, who has been out since July 20 with a bruised left wrist, is expected to throw a bullpen session either Saturday or Sunday. Barring any setbacks, he could make a Minor League rehab start next week.
Phillies: Martin and Miner join pitching staff
With Pettibone on the DL, the Phillies recalled right-hander Ethan Martin from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Friday. The team also designated for assignment J.C. Ramirez to make room in the bullpen for Zach Miner, who also was recalled from Triple-A.
Miner spent four seasons with the Tigers but he hasn't pitched in a Major League game since Oct. 6, 2009. After undergoing Tommy John surgery, he has bounced around the Minors as both a starter and reliever. In 27 games with Lehigh Valley, 12 of which were starts, he had a 3.90 ERA.
"When you're coming up and you're young, you take some things for granted," Miner said. "You get hurt and realize how hard it was to stay in the big leagues, and how hard it is to get back. You just have a better perspective on things."
• On Friday, Curt Schilling was remembered for his eight-plus seasons in red pinstripes, becoming the newest member of the Phillies Wall of Fame.
He won 16 games for the 1993 team, which won the NL pennant, and recorded consecutive 300-strikeout seasons in 1996 and 1997.
• The Braves have spent a Major League-leading 123 days atop the NL East this season. They've had a lead of at least four games since May 21.
• Since the opening of Citizens Bank Park in 2004, the Braves and Phillies have each won 43 of their 86 meetings.
Tom Schad is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.