Series Preview: Philadelphia Phillies (29-58) at Milwaukee Brewers (50-41), July 14-16

brewers_2.jpgThe first half was ugly, unexpected, and downright scary at times. The Phillies went into the All-Star break with the worst record in baseball, failing to reach 30 wins.

While we will never forget the awfulness that was May, June, and July, the Phillies can salvage what’s left of the season with a strong second half. Players will be traded, prospects will be called up and the likes of Aaron Nola and Nick Williams will hopefully continue their recent strong play.

First up are the Milwaukee Brewers, who are still holding onto a considerable 5.5 game lead over the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central.

What to Expect

The Phils will have their work cut out for them, that’s for sure. There’s no doubt that the Brewers are going to come out strong in attempt to cushion that division lead even more. They have won seven of their last nine games, scoring 57 runs during the stretch.

Despite losing their last three series, the Phillies have shown some promise. The offense is still non-existent but the starting pitching has been a bright spot as of late with a 3.21 ERA over the last 21 games. Jeremy Hellickson seems to have settled down just in time for the trade deadline, rookies Ben Lively and Nick Pivetta have been impressive, and Jerad Eickhoff rebounded nicely on Sunday in his return.

Pitching Matchups

Friday, 8:10 p.m.: Nick Pivetta (2-4, 4.73 ERA) vs. Zach Davies (10-4, 4.90 ERA)

After a rough outing against Arizona where he didn’t make it out of the third inning, Pivetta threw 14 innings in his last two games. In those starts, he gave up just four runs on six hits with 13 strikeouts.

Davies is going for his 11th win of the season – hard to comprehend considering nine Phillies starters have just 18 wins. He won his last three starts, including a two-run performance against the Cubs last week. He’s faced the Phils just once before, last season where he gave up four runs and suffered the loss

Saturday, 7:10 p.m.: Aaron Nola (6-6, 3.59 ERA) vs. Jimmy Nelson (8-4, 3.30 ERA)

One of the biggest disappointments through the first two months of the season was Nola. Since June, however, he has looked like his old self. In his last seven starts, he’s gone at least seven innings in all but two games and has given up more than three runs just once. He’s 4-3 with a 2.61 ERA since the calendar turned to June. Most importantly, his command issues seem to have subsided, striking out 52 batters in 48 1/3 innings

Nelson has been lights out at home this season. In 10 starts, he has a 2.35 ERA and has struck out 71 over 65 innings. In three career starts against the Phils, he has 6.89 ERA with three homers and 7 walks.

Sunday, 1:35 p.m.: Jeremy Hellickson (5-5, 4.49 ERA) vs. Matt Garza (4-4, 3.98 ERA)

The clock could be winding down on Hellickson’s stint in Philadelphia considering he has upped his trade value over his last four starts, giving up nine earned runs over 25.1 innings. During that stretch, Hellickson walked just four batters and struck out 19. That’s huge considering in his first 14 starts he struck out just 35 batters.

It seems hard to believe Garza is playing in his 12th season this year but he’s still chugging along. The 34-year-old just had his best outing of the season, throwing six scoreless innings against the Orioles. In his last three starts he’s given up just five runs over 17 1/3 innings.

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