Along with their luggage, the Philadelphia Phillies (11-6) carried the best record in the National League with them on their Wednesday evening flight west to Denver. There, the early-season league leaders will take on the host Colorado Rockies (6-12) in a four-game set beginning on Thursday night.
The Rockies are expected to be serious contenders for the NL West Division crown this year. Last season, Colorado finished 91-72 and captured a National League Wildcard playoff berth after finishing just a game behind the division-winning Los Angeles Dodgers.
The primary reason for the Rockies early-season failure has been an unusually feeble offensive attack. One might point out that the club has played just five of its first 15 games at home in the rarified air of the Mile-High City. However, the Rockies lost all five of those home games, scoring just 21 total runs in the process.
Colorado enters the series having won three straight behind their pitching. The Rockies staff held West Division rivals San Francisco and San Diego to just four runs in the three wins. That stretch included a complete game one-hitter from German Marquez and Quality Start outings from both Antonio Senzatela and Jon Gray. Those are likely to be the three pitchers whom the Phillies will face from Friday-Sunday. Marquez is likely nice and content after recently signing a contract extension taking him through the 2023 season.
Colorado won’t have an easy road in trying to extend that winning streak and fully get their season on track. Over the next week they will be hosting a pair of NL East contenders, with the Phillies to be followed in by the Washington Nationals.
The Rockies are currently just 27th in all of Major League Baseball in runs scored. The bats have produced a cumulative .210/.268/.310 slash line. Those figures leave them 26th, 30th, and 26th in all of baseball in the AVG, OBP and SLG categories.
On the mound, Colorado has been a middle-of-the-pack club. The staff collective 4.22 ERA is 14th in baseball and sixth in the National League, while their Batting Average Against mark of .240 is 13th in the game but fifth-best in the NL. The Rockies pitchers have surrendered just 21 homers over 18 games, fourth-best in the NL, but you can probably expect that rate to rise as those arms pitch in more home games.
The Phillies improved lineup comes to town with the sixth-highest scoring offense in MLB to this point and an OPS ranking seventh in the game. The club is fifth in doubles, and with the wide-open spaces of the Coors Field outfield territory you can expect that placing to rise by the end of the weekend.
It will be the job of the Phillies pitchers to keep those cold Rockies bats in check this weekend. Phillies hurlers are just 14th in MLB with a collective .263 Batting Average Against to this point. Their 27 home runs allowed is the seventh-highest total in all of baseball.
These two clubs have met a total of 193 times in the regular season since Colorado joined the National League as an expansion team for the 1993 season. The Phillies have won 108 of those contests, and hold a 49-45 record all-time in Denver. However, Colorado has captured 10 of the last 14 between the teams over the last two years.
THURSDAY STARTING LINEUPS AND PREVIEW
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) April 18, 2019
PHILLIES HOT & COLD
Super-utility man Scott Kingery has been on fire, slashing .571/.609/1.048 with six extra-base hits and six RBI over his last 23 plate appearances. Kingery has pinch-hit and played 2B, SS, 3B and LF during that time, seeing starts at 2B, SS, 3B.
On the cold side of things, first baseman Rhys Hoskins went 0-8 in the final two games of the Mets series, both Phillies victories. He is slashing just .138/.286/.207 over his last seven games. Bryce Harper had one big game, the middle game, in that Mets series. But stretching back across his last 10 games, Harper is slashing just .162/.326/.270 with one homer and five RBI.
Since an Opening Day meltdown, reliever Hector Neris has allowed just two hits over six innings across seven appearances. He has a 10/2 K:BB ratio over that span with just a .317 OPS against figure while recording two Saves and two Holds. Lefty Adam Morgan has yet to be charged with an earned run over his first nine appearances, striking out seven, walking none, and surrendering just three hits over 7.2 innings.
— Jenny Cavnar (@jennycavnar) April 18, 2019
ROCKIES HOT & COLD
Nolan Arenado, who is the consensus top third baseman in all of baseball, has gotten off to a cold start. The last thing the Phillies need is for the four-time NL All-Star and Silver Slugger winner and six-time NL Gold Glover to really break out and get hot. That may already be happening, as he homered in each of the club’s last two games. Arenado is slashing just .264/.325/.444 overall with six extra-base hits. His splits have always been exaggerated at home, so was probably hoping for too much to see him remain cold.
Right fielder Charlie Blackmon is slashing just .219/.266/.301, while shortstop Trevor Story is just .257/.325/.443 thus far. Center fielder Ian Desmond is only .164/.203/.279 to this point. While all that may seem to bode well for the Phillies, fact is that all of those hitters are far better than their early 2019 numbers. Those numbers will go up at some point.
On the hot side, veteran closer Wade Davis has yet to allow a run this season over his first five outings. Righty Scott Oberg and lefty Harrison Bader have been strong out of the bullpen for manager Bud Black.
The Rockies have activated both left fielder David Dahl (core) and infielder Ryan McMahon (left elbow) after their medical clearances went well on Thursday. The 25-year old Dahl had been Colorado’s one really hot hitter before suffering his injury. The 24-year-old McMahon was seeing plenty of action split between first and second base.
SHIBE VINTAGE SPORTS STARTING PITCHING MATCHUP
- Zach Eflin: 2-1, 3.94 ERA, 1.250 WHIP, 19 hits allowed over 16 innings across three starts with an 18/1 K:BB ratio.
- Eflin began the season with back-to-back strong outings. But in his last start at Miami 25-year-old righty was shelled for six earned runs on 10 hits including three homers.
- Kyle Freeland: 1-3, 5.40 ERA, 1.431 WHIP, 21 hits allowed over 21.2 innings across four starts with a 23/10 K:BB ratio. He left his last start against the San Francisco Giants with a blister on his left middle finger. He apparently has healed, but it could be something to watch.
- Freeland finished seventh in the 2017 NL Rookie of the Year voting and then fourth in last year’s NL Cy Young Award voting. However, after a strong start on Opening Day the lefty has allowed 19 hits and walked nine over his last 14.2 innings in suffering three consecutive losses.
PHILLIES NUGGETS PREGAME NOTES
- The Phillies have placed Odubel Herrera on the IL with his strained hamstring. Roman Quinn has been called up and will see his first big-league action of the season, starting in center field in Herrera’s place on Thursday. Herrera believes that he will only need the minimum 10-day stay on the Injured List.
- Kingery gets the start at shortstop, probably through at least Friday, as Jean Segura continues to be held out for cautionary reasons as he nurses what is believed to be just minor hamstring tightness.
- The dynamic but injury-prone Quinn was slashing .370/.452/.593 with nine runs scored and a pair of steals over 35 plate appearances during his minor league rehab at Clearwater and Lehigh Valley. Expect to see him get most of the center field action while healthy.
- In a lefty-on-lefty match, Harper has hit just .250 with no homers and one RBI off Freeland. Andrew McCutchen has by far the most Phillies looks at Freeland with 17 at-bats, but is hitting just .235 with no homers and one RBI.
- Blackmon has tattooed Eflin to the tune of a .571 average with two homers. Arenado is just .250 with no homers and one RBI off Eflin.
- Arenado homered on Wednesday night in San Diego. It was the 189th of his career, moving him past Troy Tulowitzki for sixth on the all-time Rockies home run list. Next up is Dante Bichette at fifth with 201 long balls.
THURSDAY PROGRAMMING INFORMATION
- First pitch scheduled for 8:40 pm EDT at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado
- TV coverage: NBC Sports+ Philadelphia (Sixers playoff game is on regular NBC Sports Philadelphia)
- Radio: SportsRadio WIP 94.1 FM , WTTM 1680 (Spanish)
— MLB.TV (@MLBTV) April 18, 2019
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