So much for that article I wrote the other day, huh? The Phillies were coming off their best stretch since April as they headed into LA, winning five straight and 10 of 16 games. Everything seemed to falling into place, especially after the trades that needed to happen before the deadline. But a three-game sweep at the hands of Mike Trout‘s Angels put those thoughts to rest. Now, the Phils walk into the thin air against Nolan Arenado and the Colorado Rockies.
What to expect
The Phillies have arguably its three best pitchers on the mound for the series: Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, and Aaron Nola. And all three are coming off strong outings. Each pitcher tossed two runs or fewer in their last starts. Velasquez, who had his best outing of the year his last time out, threw seven scoreless innings against Atlanta.
Nick Williams ended a 4-for-25 dry spell last night by posting three hits, including a two doubles and a two-run home run to dead center. Odubel Herrera, who channeled his inner Spider-Man climbing the wall to rob a home run ball last night, continues his surge hitting .335 with an OPS of .939 and 20 doubles in 53 games since June 3. He’s currently in the midst of a seven game hitting streak. All eyes are still on Maikel Franco who was hitting .414 in seven games since the all-star break, but over his last 12, the third baseman is posting a lowly .152 average with 15 strikeouts.
Expect the Rockies to hit. Plain and simple. They’re 26-13 at Coors Field since May 6 and hitting .314 with 51 home runs. Arenado, an MVP candidate, was named NL Player of the Month for July by posting a .389 average with 30 RBI. He leads the majors in RBI with 96… already. The guy Arenado is knocking in the all the time, Charlie Blackmon, is having a career year himself, who is third in the league in average (.335), first in runs (97), second in hits (146), and first in total bases (268).
Friday, 8:40 p.m.: Vince Velasquez (2-6, 4.91 ERA) vs. Kyle Freeland (11-7, 3.71 ERA)
As noted earlier, Velasquez is coming off the best start of the season. Two of his last three outings have been strong since returning from the DL. The right-hander relied on his fastball just 56 percent of the time in his most successful start of the season, much lower than previous outings. Perhaps Velasquez had an epiphany when saying, “I can’t be a thrower anymore,” after his start against the Braves. He’ll be facing a tall task against a postseason-bound lineup. Freeland has been the Rockies best starter this season. The rookie surprisingly has a 3.21 ERA at Coors Field. The 24-year-old’s last start came to end after five innings, when allowed nine hits to the Nationals.
Saturday, 8:10 p.m.: Nick Pivetta (4-6, 5.42 ERA) vs. Jon Gray (3-2, 5.52 ERA)
Pivetta, part of the famous four-game sweep of the Braves, tossed six innings while allowing one run on three hits. Pivetta still lacks consistency in the big leagues, and is a wildcard on the mound. You don’t know what you’re getting on a start-by-start basis. Like Freeland, Gray is much better pitcher at home, posting a 3.71 ERA in three starts at Coors. Pete Mackain needs to stack his lineup with lefties, as Gray’s lefty opponents are hitting .327 with a .909 OPS.
Sunday, 3:10 p.m.: Aaron Nola (8-7, 3.16 ERA) vs. Jeff Hoffman (6-3, 5.38 ERA)
Every time Aaron Nola pitches, the Phillies have as good a shot as anyone to win that night. This will be the right-hander’s debut at Coors Field. Hoffman, another 24-year-old, has not used the same recipe as his fellow starts have at home. He has a 7.04 ERA at Coors in in eight games, compared to a 3.65 ERA on the road, which explains his seven innings, three hit, one-run performance at Citizens Bank Park in May.