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2017 Series Preview

Series Preview: Philadelphia Phillies (14-21) at Texas Rangers (19-20), May 16-18

Going into the season, this series was circled on the calendar as a potential reunion with former World Series MVP Cole Hamels. Turns out, the Phils will miss the left-hander, but not because of a missed turn in the rotation. The four-time all-star was placed on the disabled list back on May 3 with an oblique strain. He’s expected to miss eight weeks. Bummer.

What to expect

The Rangers come into the series fourth in the majors in home runs (53). The Phillies come into the series second in home runs allowed (57). You can guess what to expect. As stated in my piece yesterday, the Phils need to limit Texas’ power to solo blasts. But if the rotation and/or bullpen starts issuing unwarranted free passes, it could be a long series. To make matters worse, the Rangers are hot, winners of six straight.

Texas is battling a slew of injuries. Adrian Beltre, Tyson Ross, former Phillie Jake Diekman, Carlos Gomez, and the aforementioned Hamels are on the disabled list and will miss the series. The status of outfielder Shin-Soo Choo is uncertain because of a back injury

The Rangers are led by third baseman Joey Gallo, who was in “deep discussions” for a potential trade involving Vince Velasquez last July. The 23-year-old leads the team in home runs (12) and RBI (27) but has a putrid .195 batting average and 57 strikeouts in 39 games. However, the slugger is hitting .368 with 6 home runs on the first pitch. No cookies allowed.

The Phils last visit to Texas was to begin the 2014 season, when they lost two of three.

Probable starters

Tuesday, 8:05 p.m., Jerad Eickhoff (0-3, 4.76 ERA) vs. Yu Darvish (3-2, 2.96 ERA)

For the first time all season, Eickhoff received four runs of support from his offense. But it went to waste, as the usual reliable arm surrendered eight hits and five runs in 3.2 innings against Seattle. It’s been exactly one month since the 26-year-old has tossed a quality start. Darvish looks like he’s back at an all-star level after Tommy John surgery sidelined him for the entire 2015 season. He’s susceptible to the walk, however, averaging close to four per nine innings.

Wednesday, 8:05 p.m., Zach Eflin (0-0, 2.81 ERA) vs. Andrew Cashner (0-3, 2.43 ERA)

Eflin has emerged as the Phillies best pitcher; there’s no other way around it. Since his call up in mid-April, the righthander has thrown four straight quality starts and has allowed three runs or fewer in every start. Opponents are hitting a miniscule .080 against Eflin with runners in scoring position. Over the last two seasons, Cashner is sporting an 11-27 record with a 4.72 ERA. This year, Cashner has revitalized his career and is in the top 25 in ERA. With no wins to show for it, the Rangers average just two runs a game when Cashner starts.

Thursday, 2:05 p.m., Nick Pivetta (0-2, 6.14 ERA) vs. Martin Perez (1-5, 3.89 ERA)

Pivetta was well on his way to his first major league win his last time out against the Nationals. The rookie cruised through four innings before hitting a wall in the fifth, allowing three hits (two doubles and a home run) and two walks. It won’t get easier for Pivetta, now having to face a designated hitter. Perez started the second day of the season in 2014 when the Phils last played in Texas. The left-hander has a 4.46 ERA and a WHIP of 1.39 in 14 career interleague starts.

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