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Phillies are goin’ to Kansas City for a low-key pivotal weekend series


The Phillies sit alone in first place in the NL East and, with a tough upcoming schedule, need to take advantage of the host and last-place Royals this weekend in Kansas City. (jimcchou)

On the surface, this mid-May series in Kansas City between the Philadelphia Phillies (21-15) and the host Kansas City Royals (13-25) at Kauffman Stadium might not seem very interesting.

However, when you consider the situations of the two combatants and the Phillies upcoming schedule, the importance of winning – better yet, sweeping – this series should become more apparent to all Phillies fans.

First, those situations. You can tell just by looking at the win-loss records of the two squads that they are in far different places this year. The Phillies lead the National League East Division standings by four games, five in the loss columng.

Meanwhile, the Royals are in the basement of the AL Central Division. They already sit 11.5 games in back of the first-place Minnesota Twins, 13 out in that loss column. In fact, they are buried in the cellar at the current time, a full five back in the loss column from the fourth place team in their division.

These are the teams that the Phillies must beat up on if they are going to really pull away in their own divisional race. Also, after this weekend the club returns home for the next nine games. That would usually be a good thing, and it probably is in the scheme of things. But they return home to face some tough competition at the start of a scheduling crucible.

Of the Phillies next 23 games, 20 are against teams who currently have a winning record. And the three against a losing team come next weekend at home against the Colorado Rockies, who are just below the .500 mark and are always dangerous.

The Phillies will return home to a four-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers (23-16) followed by three with the Rockies. Then they go on the road to the Windy City and four with the red-hot Chicago Cubs (22-13) and on to Milwaukee for three more with the Brew Crew. A quick stop home for a three-game series with the Saint Louis Cardinals (22-16) is then followed by a trip out west to face the Los Angeles Dodgers (25-15) and San Diego Padres (21-17).

That, my friends, is what is called a “test” in the sports world. It is the kind of stretch that tells you whether or not you are a legitimate contending team or not. It is a gauntlet that can either make a team, bringing it closer together, elevating it to new heights, or expose it as either a flawed club or an outright fraud.

And so, this weekend in Kansas City is important to the Phillies. They are a better team than the Royals. But that doesn’t mean that Kansas City doesn’t possess talented players entirely capable of coming up with a strong weekend and sending the Phillies home lamenting a missed opportunity . Gabe Kapler needs to have his club ready to play, and they need to go hard after these three games.

FRIDAY STARTING LINEUPS

PHILLIES LINEUP

  1. Andrew McCutchen LF
  2. Jean Segura SS
  3. Bryce Harper DH
  4. Rhys Hoskins 1B
  5. J.T. Realmuto C
  6. Odubel Herrera CF
  7. Cesar Hernandez 2B
  8. Maikel Franco 3B
  9. Nick Williams RF

 

ROYALS LINEUP

  1. Whit Merrifield 2B
  2. Adalberto Mondesi SS
  3. Alex Gordon LF
  4. Hunter Dozier 3B
  5. Jorge Soler RF
  6. Ryan O’Hearn 1B
  7. Kelvin Gutierrez DH
  8. Martin Maldonado C
  9. Billy Hamilton CF

 

SHIBE VINTAGE SPORTS STARTING PITCHING MATCHUP

  • Jake Arrieta: 4-2, 3.40 ERA, 1.244 WHIP, 40 hits allowed over 45 IP across seven starts with a 37/16 K:BB
  • Six of Arrieta’s seven outings can be characterized as strong, with only his April 27 start at home against the Miami Marlins as a poor outing. That would be his lone non-Quality Start (at least 6 IP, no more than 3 ER allowed) to this point.
  • Arrieta has four career starts vs the Royals: 2-0, 3.70 ERA, 22 hits over 24.1 IP with a 24/10 K:BB. However, three of the four came in 2010-11, and he has not faced them at all since the 2015 season. He made a start at Kauffman Stadium as a rookie with the Baltimore Orioles in 2010, and then made another start there in the 2011 season for Baltimore.
  • Homer Bailey: 3-3, 5.25 ERA, 1.306 WHIP, 34 hits allowed over 36 IP across seven starts with a 34/13 K:BB
  • Bailey has made seven starts, and in five of those he hasn’t pitched badly. However, in his two poor starts, he was miserable. Back on April 8 in his second start, Bailey allowed seven earned runs over five innings, mostly a product of three home runs. Then on April 23 he was bounced after just one inning by the Tampa Bay Rays after allowing four earned runs on three hits and four walks. In those other five starts he allowed just 23 hits over 30 innings with a 27/7 K:BB. Opponents have managed just a .219 BAA over his last five starts. In other words, unless the awful version happens to show tonight, Bailey can be expected to toss a solid game.
  • Bailey has made 11 career starts against the Phillies: 1-4, 3.74 ERA, 57 hits allowed over 65 innings with a 54/14 K:BB. His last came early last season when he went six innings for the Cincinnati Reds in a 6-1 loss at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies scored five times off the Reds bullpen after Bailey left that game.
  • Tommy John surgery in 2015 followed by surgery to remove bone spurs in his pitching elbow in early 2017 caused Bailey to miss most of the 2015-17 seasons. He made just 26 starts over those three years, 18 of those after returning in 2017.
  • Back on December 21, Bailey was included in a big trade between the Reds and the LA Dodgers, who subsequently released him the following day. He signed as a free agent with the Royals on February 9.
  • Bailey and Arrieta are two of five active MLB pitchers to have tossed multiple no-hitters in their careers. Bailey’s came all the way back in 2012 and 2013.

 

PHILLIES NUGGETS PREGAME NOTES

  • This is the first meeting between these two teams since the Phillies took two of three games at Citizens Bank Park in the 2016 season. It will be just the second regular season trip to Kansas City for the Phillies, with the last coming way back in 2007. Of course, the Phillies famously captured their first-ever World Series championship by defeating the Royals in six games back in 1980. The Royals won their first just five years later. Both franchise’ now have two titles.
  • Tonight marks just the 13th regular season meeting between the Phillies and Royals, tied with the Los Angeles Angels as the fewest games which the Phillies have played against another MLB opponent.
  • This will be the Royals first Interleague series of the season. They went 6-14 last year in such games, and are 190-213 since Interleague play began back in 1997. They will face each of the Phillies divisional rivals later in the season. The Phillies set a franchise record with a dozen Interleague wins last season, and have a .600 winning percentage against AL clubs since the start of 2018, fourth best in the NL.
  • Andrew McCutchen has faced Bailey 51 times, more than any other Phillies player, and is hitting .314 off him. No current players in the Phillies lineup have homered off Homer.
  • Billy Hamilton, perhaps the flat-out fastest player in Major League Baseball, has faced Arrieta 18 times, most on the Royals. He has just a .167 average vs the Phillies right-hander. Alex Gordon is the lone Royals active hitter to take Arrieta deep.
  • Harper will serve as the Designated Hitter in Friday night’s opening game. Harper was the DH just once last season with Washington, going 0-5 with two strikeouts in a game at Toronto on June 17.
  • Today is the 29th birthday of perennial AL All-Star catcher Salvador Perez. An All-Star in each of the last six seasons and winner of the AL Gold Glove at catcher in five of those, Perez is out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He is expected back at full strength for the 2020 campaign.
  • Over their last 13 starts, the Phillies rotation has combined to post a 2.42 ERA in leading the Phillies to a 9-4 record in that span, with their collective ERA as the 2nd-lowest among all MLB staffs during the stretch.
  • Keys for the Phillies? They are 16-4 when scoring first, 18-4 when scoring four or more runs, 18-6 when blasting at least one homer, 12-1 when they out-hit the opposition, 19-1 when leading after six innings, 20-8 when their starting pitcher goes at least five innings. On the flip-side, they are 0-11 when trailing after six innings, 1-4 when tied after eight innings, and are 0-2 in walkoff decisions. In other words, they haven’t done well when trailing late to this point.
  • A celebration of life for Phillies chairman and minority owner David P. Montgomery, who passed away earlier this week, will be held at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday, June 6, 2019 at 3:05 p.m. This is a scheduled off-day for the Phillies coming off a west coast trip. The service will be open to the public with gates opening at 2 pm. Parking in the CBP lots will be free. In lieu of flowers, the Montgomery family kindly requests that contributions be made to: Phillies Charities, Inc., Citizens Bank Park, One Citizens Bank Way, Philadelphia, PA 19148.

 

FRIDAY PROGRAMMING INFORMATION

 

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