Ask any big-league ball player what their least favorite phrase is, and they’ll probably say “wrap-around series.” Actually they’ll probably say “95-mile-an-hour fastball to the temple,” but wrap-around series would be a close second. They screw up players’ internal clocks by scheduling back-to-back day games (sometimes back-to-back-to-back), when one day game is usually enough to make player go wonky.
But that’s what the Phillies and Braves are doing this weekend, with a Friday-Monday series on tap at Citizens Bank Park, the end of what so far hasn’t been that bad of a 10-game Phillies homestand.
WHAT TO EXPECT
It was happy-happy-joy-joy at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday when the Phils shut out the Astros, 9-0, to scare up one win in the three-game series. The Phillies haven’t been playing badly, going 6-4 in their last 10, with seven of those games coming against playoff contenders. Maikel Franco is showing signs of life, Aaron Nola could be transforming into a star before our very eyes and Nick Williams is making us drool wondering if he can keep this up and pair with two or three other prospects that hit and form a formidable middle of the lineup for the next seven years.
The Braves, meanwhile, after pulling to.500 with a home sweep against the Diamondbacks out of the all-star break, have slipped to 3-7 through their last 10 and just sent down Dansby Swanson, its hoped-for franchise player. Despite flirting with .500, they rightfully showed they’re in likely sell mode when they dealt Jaime Garcia to the Twins this week. Unless you’re a National League team in the NL Central right now, you should be selling everything not bolted down, and the Braves realized that.
Of course, we have to talk about Herrera and whether he’ll be in the lineup tonight … wait, no we don’t.
Jeremy Hellickson (6-5, 4.73 ERA) vs. Julio Tehran (7-8, 4.67 ERA), 7:05 p.m.
Tehran had always dominated the Phillies — until last year when he racked up a 5.40 ERA and 1.67 WHIP in three starts. This is the first time he’s faced the Phillies this year in what has again been a disappointing year for Tehran, the Braves’ version of Zach Ertz — everyone keeps waiting for him to break out. Hellickson is what he is at this point. It’d be nice to see him throw a gem for his deadline pricetag to go up, but not by so much the Phillies can’t get something done.
Jerad Eickhoff (2-7, 4.71 ERA) vs. Sean Newcomb (1-5, 4.81)
There is an argument to be made that other than Franco, no Phillie has more to prove in the next two months than Jerad Eickhoff. That’s because this year he’s completely flipped the switch on who we thought he was coming into the year from durable, efficient and reliable to now injury-feared, flawed and bullpen-able. He’s looked much better in two of his three starts since coming off the disabled list, the exception being a three-homer game in Miami on July 17. But Eickhoff’s been hit pretty hard this year, and with every roster spot on the team open going into the offseason, it’s up to Eickhoff to show the Phillies he’s worth it.
Vince Velasquez (2-6, 5.49 ERA) vs. R.A. Dickey (6-7, 4.31 ERA), 1:35 p.m.
The Phillies haven’t been able to hit a straight ball this year, how are they going to hit one that dances around? The only reason I just said Eickhoff has more to prove than almost anyone is because I’m starting to get the feeling they already know what they have with Velasquez. An oft-injured nibbler who is going to struggle to harness his incredible potential. But nothing would taste better than eating those words.
Nick Pivetta (3-6, 5.73 ERA) vs. Mike Foltynewicz (9-5, 3.82 ERA)
Speaking of fulfilling potential, former first-round pick Foltynewicz looks like he may be finally realizing his. He’s shut down the Phillies twice this year, with a 0.64 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP. Pivetta would be wise to watch Foltynewicz, who is 5-0 in his last six starts with 42/16 K/BB ratio. Pivetta was cruising Tuesday against the best team and best offense in baseball, but got tagged in the sixth for four runs on five hits. On the bright side, he did only walk one.