If you asked me to hand pick a stretch of games that could help the Phillies (30-37) get back on track, it would look a lot like the next 13 games of their schedule. Reason being that the next series against the Diamondbacks (29-39), followed by a series against the struggling Twins, represents a chance for the Phillies to come up for air after a four week stretch of almost exclusively playing clubs with records above .500. Over that stretch, using the Detroit series as the starting point, the Phillies managed just five wins in 23 chances.
While it has become crystal clear that the Phils are not yet built to battle with baseball’s heavyweights, the team only sits seven games below .500 and just six games out of a spot in the wildcard play-in game. That is to say, there is still ample time for this team to find their groove again and perhaps re-spark some interest. This upcoming set against the Diamondbacks should be much more competitive than the crushing defeats the Phillies have experienced of late.
Ray, fresh off a 7.2 inning shutout performance against the Miami Marlins, has been wildly inconsistent throughout the season. While he is capable of spectacular outings, they’re rare. More often than not this season, the lefty has let up a barrage of runs early and found himself being pulled before the end of the fifth inning, as has been the case in five of 13 starts this season. Morgan, equally inconsistent in his ability to prevent runs, looks to counter and record his second win of the season. Knowing how Morgan can falter, the offense will be the key to winning this game. While the Phillies’ bats have woken up a bit over the last week, it hasn’t been enough to cover the pitching efforts. Bucking that trend will take a full team effort.
One of Saturday’s starting pitchers signed a contract for $206 million this past off-season. The other pitcher is working on a $516,000 salary, yet, has been a gem every fifth day for a team that was supposed to lack strong starting pitching. That’s not to ignore what Greinke has done this year. After brushing off an uneven start to the season, Greinke has settled back into his role as an ace, mowing down opposing hitters over his last three starts, recording 19 Ks in the process and allowing two runs over 23 innings of work. If Eickhoff can keep the Diamondbacks’ bats quiet and off balance, this could become a pitchers’ duel.
Coming off a horrid MLB debut, Eflin will look to rebound in front of the hometown crowd. Opposing him, Archie Bradley will look to do the same after a string of poor pitching performances. As shaky as the pitchers might be, the Phillies’ offense has been in an equal state of disarray. Facing Bradley, it would seem to reason that the bats could potentially break out on Sunday. Or, as has been the case of late, they will leave their runners stranded and struggle to push runs across. Hopefully, the former is closer to reality. Combined with a sharper home debut for Efflin, this would be a game you can expect the Phils to win.
Monday, June 20th- Jeremy Hellickson (4-5, 4.46 ERA) v. TBD
The series closes out on Monday afternoon as Hellickson tries to find his sweet spot, the same groove that saw him delivering games featuring 7+ strikeout performances. When Hellickson is inducing batters to swing and miss, he’s one of the Phillies’ most effective pitchers. In games in which he strikes out 7+, he carries a 1.29 ERA. Regardless of who is opposing him on the mound, that level of effectiveness should give the Phillies a chance to take this four game set on Monday.
Reliever Colton Murray was optioned following Thursday’s game. A corresponding move is expected today, to replace him on the big league roster. The 26-year-old righty had posted a 0-1 record with a 4.30 ERA in 17 appearances with the Phils this year.
Rosters moves down on the farm:
With the Class A levels reaching their All-Star breaks in the coming days, the roster shuffles that typically come around this time of year have begun.
Pitchers Reinier Roibal, Gregory Infante, and Jeremy Bleich have all been promoted from Double-A Reading to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. To fill some voids on the Reading roster, relievers Joey DeNato and Temple product Matt Hockenberry have been promoted from Class A Advanced Clearwater.