The last time the Chicago Cubs lost a game that Jake Arrieta started, the Philadelphia Phillies filled the opposing dugout. It was a hot July afternoon and Cole Hamels took control of the mound at Wrigley Field. Hamels walked off the mound that afternoon with a no-hitter and a 5-0 win. Ryan Howard hit a 3-run home run off of Arrieta. It was a magical moment that will be remembered as the last start Cole Hamels made for the Phillies before being traded to the Rangers. The Phillies are fortunate that they will miss Arrieta this weekend as they return to Wrigley for a three game set. However, Jared Eickhoff, one of the pieces from that Hamels trade, will take the mound on Saturday. It remains to be seen if Eickhoff can channel Hamels’ spirit and deliver the same level of dominance. If not, that’s ok. A series win against the best team in baseball would be quite the statement for this Phillies squad that has dropped four of its last six games.
Friday at 2:20 pm EST
The most pressing issue going into Friday’s game is the status of Maikel Franco. Depending on how his ankle feels, the Phillies could be pressed into moving Cody Asche along at a faster pace in order to plug the hole at third. Looking to the pitching though, Adam Morgan’s ERA looks pretty poor. It is mostly an effect of allowing seven runs against the Reds two weeks ago. In this four other starts, he has not allowed more than three runs. A quality start by Morgan would give the Phillies a fighting chance against Jon Lester. Lester started the season extremely hot, but has been hittable of late, as his opponents’ batting average has risen from .207 in April to .250 in May. After two 12-hit games against Detroit, the Phillies bats might be waking up. While winning this series will be tough, this game might be the most difficult to walk away with a W.
Saturday at 2:20 pm EST
Jared Eickhoff (2-6, 3.86 ERA) v. Kyle Hendricks (2-4, 3.30 ERA)
As previously mentioned, Eickhoff was a big piece in that Cole Hamels deal that has already paid some dividends for this Phillies squad. After an up and down April, Eickhoff has settled into his role and looks to build on his seven shutout inning outing against the Braves last week. Kyle Hendricks, on the other hand, has been much more volatile. He has yet to have a start in which he pitches seven complete innings. He has managed to keep hitters in the park, but is also liable to allow hits in bunches, leading to opposing teams collecting three or four runs more often than not. The Cubs’ offense is often strong enough to overcome starts like that out of its pitchers, but has slowed down a bit of late.
Sunday at 2:20 pm EST
Vince Velasquez (5-1, 2.75 ERA) v. John Lackey (4-2, 3.38 ERA)
John Lackey might be the definition of night and day when discussing the difference between his April and May. His four April starts featured two 6-run outings and he had trouble working out of trouble. Since then though, he has been dealing. His May includes a three hit, 1-run performance against the Padres, in which he carried a perfect game into the sixth inning. Vince Velasquez has been dealing in his own right, but has also faced his own struggles this month. A strong finish to the month could be a turning point as the Phillies return home and focus on an NL East matchup with the first-place Nationals.