The Phillies have created the perfect event in its annual “Alumni Weekend.”
Fans pack the stadium and for the most part, they don’t care about the score of the game. They just want to see old friends from 1964, 1980, 1983, 1993 and 2008 gather on the field after being introduced by Dan Baker, shake hands, give hugs, retell stories from their memorable seasons and transport us all back to a better time.
Alumni weekend will be short two of the most beloved Phillies of all time: Pete Rose (invitation rescinded) and Darren Daulton. Nine days ago, it seemed like Rose would be dominating the conversation with his absence. Now, we know the entire weekend will be one big, tearful, heartbreaking and hopefully wonderful tribute to the late Dutch Daulton, who last weekend lost a long battle with brain cancer.
The outpouring of love for Daulton has been truly moving since then, and it’s not going to end until the Phillies close up shop on a four-game home series with the Mets on Sunday before heading back out west.
What to expect
Hmmmm, so who has failed to live up to expectations more this year, the Phils or the Mets? The Phillies had lower, tepid expectations, but currently stand as the worst team in baseball (but only a game back of the White Sox!). The Mets had moderate Wild Card or even NL East champs expectations, but should the Phillies (GASP!) sweep this series, they’d be just four games in the standings away from catching the Mets to move out of last place in the East. So yeah, Mets fans should probably be more disappointed than Phillies fans.
Oh, and welcome to the show, Rhys Hoskins. We’ve been expecting you.
Thursday, 7:05 p.m.: Vince Velazquez (2-6, 4.82 ERA) vs. Jacob deGrom (12-5, 3.36 ERA)
For as bad as the Mets have been, deGrom has continued his ascent to one of the National League’s best pitchers. And he’s also become a bona fide Phillie killer, holding the team to a .534 OPS in nine career appearances. On the flip side, we keep saying it with Velazquez: He’s got to show something down the stretch to make us sit up and take notice. Frankly, it’s getting old.
Friday, 7:05 p.m.: Nick Pivetta (4-7, 5.89 ERA) vs. Seth Lugo (5-3, 4.55 ERA)
Pivetta got LIT UP in Colorado last weekend, the kind of performance (2.2 IP, 7 H, 6 ER) that on most other teams would have had him immediately getting ready for his next start against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. But, the Phillies have some rope to play with, and seem like they’re willing to trot him out there every fifth day to figure out exactly what they’ve got. He does have a great start against the Mets (7 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 1 BB) under his belt already this year.
Saturday, 7:05 p.m.: Aaron Nola (8-7, 3.12 ERA) vs. Steven Matz (2-5, 5.77 ERA)
Boy, this couldn’t have worked out any better. In what could be the most emotional stadium scene at Citizens Bank Park in years after what almost certainly will be the full-on Daulton tribute, Nola will take the mound against a mysteriously struggling Matz. Seeing as Nola has become the best hope for the Phillies in any series they play, it couldn’t come at a better time this weekend with what is likely to be the biggest non-Opening Day crowd of the year.
Sunday, 1:35 p.m.: Zach Eflin (1-3, 5.67 ERA) vs. Chris Flexen (1-1, 8.49 ERA)
Big game here for Eflin to show his great start in Atlanta on Tuesday wasn’t some kind of fluke based solely on the Phillies’ dominance of the Braves this year. Seeing as he’s pitching against a fringy Mets prospect who’s been knocked around pretty well in three appearances and sounds like he should own a Gold’s Gym franchise, this should be a pretty good opportunity for that.