2017 Series Preview

Series Preview: Houston Astros (65-33) at Philadelphia Phillies (34-62), July 24-26

Houston-Astros-Logo.pngThe team with the second-best record in baseball comes to town to play the team with the worst record in baseball for a three-game set. What do you think will happen?

What to expect

Actually, since coming out of the all-star break the Phillies have come off as … competent. Quite competent in fact. They’ve won five of the nine games they’ve played and six of those games were against a good, first-place Brewers squad. They’ve hit well, pitched better and are starting to put it together as evidenced by their +14 run differential through those nine.

The Astros though have been hot all season. Despite injuries to key assets they’ve managed to remain cohesive and continue a string of dominance over their opponents that vaguely resembles Mike Tyson’s early years of boxing. For their part, the Phillies are looking to play the part of Buster Douglas and at least win the series.

It wasn’t too long ago that the Astros were in the same situation the Phillies currently find themselves – the undisputed worst team in baseball. The Astros had a three-year run from 2011-13 that saw them finish with the worst record in baseball every year. Then the return to competitiveness began and they’ve managed to make due with limited payroll resources and put together what appears to be a team destined for a deep playoff run.

The Astros team that the Phillies will be facing is currently first in all of baseball in runs per game, home runs, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. As far as pitching goes they’re first in baseball in strikeouts, seventh in ERA, fifth in FIP and third in WHIP.

By comparison the Phillies are third to last in runs per game and home runs, eighth to last in batting average, fourth to last in on-base percentage, and fifth to last in slugging percentage. The Phillies pitching staff is a bit better; 18th in ERA, 24th in FIP and 18th in WHIP.

So that’s what the Phils are up against, but still, the Phils look pretty good lately and I for one think they at least have a shot at taking two of three from the ‘stros right now.

Probable starters

Monday, 7:05 p.m.: Brad Peacock (8-1, 2.49 ERA) vs. Vince Velasquez (2-5, 5.14 ERA)

Velasquez went six innings in his first start back from the disabled list giving up one earned run. He’s been good even since before the injury, scoring a 2.14 ERA in his last three starts. Peacock though has been even better than that with a 1.89 ERA over his last three. It’d be nice for Velasquez to really show up and let the Astros know what they gave up. The Phils will have to make the most of every opportunity they get because, most likely, there won’t be a lot of them.

Tuesday, 7:05 p.m.: Charlie Morton (7-4, 4.18 ERA) vs. Nick Pivetta (3-5, 5.58 ERA)

The Phillies’ best shot at a win in this series comes Tuesday night when they face ex-Phillie great Charlie Morton. Morton pitches to contact and is an extreme ground ball pitcher. For Pivetta’s part he needs to stay away from the long ball and the big inning.

Wednesday, 7:05 p.m.: Mike Fiers (7-4, 3.59 ERA) vs. Aaron Nola (7-6, 3.38 ERA)

Nola has returned to the dominance Phillies fans saw early in 2016, with a 1-1 record over his last three starts and a 2.14 ERA. Fiers has been just as good, though. This should be an excellent pitching matchup.

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