The resurgent Philadelphia Phillies (33-23) have re-established themselves for the first time in years as National League East Division standings leaders and legitimate contenders over the first two months of the 2019 regular season.
The Los Angeles Dodgers (38-19) are the two-time defending National League champions and have captured six consecutive NL West Division crowns. They are once again riding high atop the division as we enter the month of June.
This weekend at Dodger Stadium, these two teams will meet for the first of two times this season. They will meet again in a four-game series at Citizens Bank Park just after the MLB All-Star Game in mid-July. The Phillies and Dodgers are the top two teams in the National League to this point in the season, but they have reached that status in very different manners.
The Phillies have been inconsistent in nearly every facet of the game statistically. They are out-performing those stats, fashioning their winning record and frustrating their fans by looking awful in one game and then like world-beaters in the other two games pf most every series.
On the mound, Dodgers pitchers have the lowest cumulative ERA in the NL. They lead the league in batting average against, Quality Starts, and OPS against while allowing the fewest walks in the league. The club is also among the more solid defensive units in the league.
The Phillies have gone 20-11 over the last month, and have won nine of their last 13 despite dropping the series finale to Saint Louis on Thursday. During what is arguably the toughest 23-game portion of their 2019 regular season schedule, the Phillies are now 10-7. That stretch comes to an end with this west coast trip to Los Angeles and San Diego over the next six days.
This will be a major test for the Phillies, a chance to measure themselves against the very best in the National League on the road. Even winning one of three games this weekend could be considered a victory. But the Phillies want more than that. They have taken and held first place by winning series, and that will be the goal once again.
There is a tremendous history between these two clubs. The Dodgers defeated the Phillies in the 1977 and 1978 National League Championship Series, the first of those including what has become known as “Black Friday” in Phillies lore, one of the toughest defeats in team history. The Phillies responded by dumping the Dodgers in the 2008 and 2009 NLCS.
And then there was the infamous 1988 battle at Veteran’s Stadium between Dodgers then-skipper Tommy LaSorda and the Phillie Phanatic:
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
TOP LINEUP THREATS
Cody Bellinger: The early-line favorite for the National League Most Valuable Player Award, Bellinger has accumulated quite the highlight reel over the season’s first two months at the plate and in the field. He is slashing .377/.464/.754 with 20 homers, 52 RBIs, 50 runs scored, and seven stolen bases. Formerly the starting first baseman, Bellinger was flipped out to right field in early May. Perhaps some good news for the Phillies? Bellinger is hitting just .250 over his last 10 games. However, he has four homers, seven extra-base hits, and 10 RBIs in that time, so his bat has remained impactful.
Justin Turner: Now in his 11th big-league season, the 34-year-old with the fiery red hair who has finished among the top 15 in NL MVP voting for three straight years is enjoying another solid season. The third baseman has been hot over his last nine games, slashing .359/.405/.513 with nine runs scored.
Joc Pederson: A 27-year-old lefty bat and left fielder, Pederson is another of the hot Dodgers bats. He is slashing .483/.559/.862 over his last nine games with six extra-base hits, seven RBIs, and nine runs scored in that stretch. Having banged 11 of his 16 home runs at home, Pederson will be a major challenge to Phillies pitching this weekend.
Max Muncy: Another of the big Dodgers left-handed bats, the 28-year-old Muncy has mostly started at first base but will also be used at both second and third base at times. His 33 RBIs are second on the club, while his 11 homers and 21 extra-base hits are third. Like a number of the others described here, Muncy has been hot. Over the past two weeks he is slashing .296/.387/.574 with nine extra-base hits and 14 runs scored over his last 14 games.
Alex Verdugo: You guessed it, the 23-year-old Verdugo is yet another big left-handed stick in the Dodgers lineup. With the injury to A.J. Pollock, Verdugo has taken over as the starting center fielder, his first chance to get into the everyday lineup on a full-time basis now in his third season. He is slashing .322/.376/.521 on the season and his RBI per plate appearances mark is second in the starting lineup.
Hyun-Jin Ryu: the Phillies are not scheduled to see Ryu in this series, which is probably the one piece of good news when considering all of the Dodgers stars. The 32-year-old southpaw from South Korea is enjoying his best big-league season after missing half of 2018 with a lingering groin injury. Ryu is 8-1 with a 1.48 ERA and 284 ERA+, both of which lead all of Major League Baseball. His 0.808 WHIP leads the National League, and he has allowed just 54 hits over 73 innings across 11 starts with a 69/5 K:BB ratio.
SCHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS
Kenta Maeda (31): Friday – RHP, 6-2, 3.67 ERA, 1.172 WHIP, 46 hits over 56.1 IP across 10 starts with a 56/20 K:BB
Clayton Kershaw (31): Saturday – LHP, 5-0, 3.46 ERA, 1.077 WHIP, 47 hits over 52 IP across eight starts with a 49/9 K:BB
Rich Hill (39): Sunday – LHP, 1-1, 2.73 ERA, 1.091 WHIP, 30 hits over 33 IP across six starts with a 37/6 K:BB
KEY BENCH & BULLPEN PIECESD
Chris Taylor: 2B/SS/OF – .237/.305/.410, four homers, 19 RBIs, 14 extra-base hits over 155 plate appearances
David Freese: 1B/3B – .269/.412/.500, four homers, 14 RBIs, 10 extra-base hits over 97 plate appearances
Russell Martin: C – .246/.363/.369, four extra-base hits including two homers over 80 plate appearances. The 14-year veteran and rookie Will Smith will split time behind the plate in this series with starting catcher Austin Barnes on the IL.
Dave Roberts is in his fourth season as the Dodgers manager. He guided the club to the NL West crown in his first three seasons, and to the National League pennant and a World Series berth in both of the last two years. He has a career 325-219 record as skipper with LA following on a 10-year career as a player with five different teams. Roberts played with the Dodgers from 2002-04.
He is famed for a stolen base in the 2004 ALCS while with the Red Sox that sparked Boston to a rally from down 3-0 in the series to the Yankees. Boston would rally to win that series in seven games, then would break the 86-year ‘Curse of the Bambino‘ to win their first World Series. Roberts’ steal is now legendary in Boston.
Dodger Stadium is also known in some circles by the nickname “Chavez Ravine” after the 352-acre location in which it was constructed. Opened for the 1962 season, it became the Dodgers second home after the franchise moved west from Brooklyn following the 1957 campaign. The Dodgers played their first four years on the west coast at the Los Angeles Memorial Colisseum.
The beautiful ballpark is now the oldest in Major League Baseball west of the Mississippi River, and third-oldest in MLB behind only Wrigley Field in Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston. It is also the largest baseball stadium in the world by seating capacity, capable of fitting 56,000 fans on an official basis. The record attendance is 57,099 for the 2009 season opener.
Dodger Stadium’s outfield fence is 400-feet to dead-center field, 330-feet down the lines in both right and left fields, and 375-feet to both right and left-center field.
Little known fact: the entire Palo Verde elementary school was simply buried beneath the parking lot northwest of third base when the ballpark and parking lots were constructed.
LOS ANGELES SERIES WEATHER REPORT
As usual with LA, there is a near-zero percent chance of any rain during this three-game series. The high temps are forecast to be right around 70 degrees, overnight lows in the upper-50’s. Temps will be in the 60’s for the bulk of all three games with light winds and moderate humidity. Bottom line: if you chose to make the trip to Los Angeles for any or all of these games, you will experience perfect baseball weather.
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- Larry Shenk’s Phillies Minor League Report: 5/31/19
- Home run ball by Cardinals and lack of timely hitting cost Phillies in series finale
- Phillies promote Adam Haseley to Triple-A