The Philadelphia Phillies (55-50) and San Francisco Giants (54-52) are each squarely in the hunt for a National League Wildcard playoff berth with just nine weeks remaining in the 2019 MLB regular season.
However, the two teams came to that race in very different ways. The Phillies bolted out to a hot start over the season’s first two months, leading the NL East Division into late May before stumbling.
The Giants, on the other hand, stumbled out of the gate. As late as June 29, San Francisco found themselves a dozen games below the .500 mark. With the second-worst record in the National League, they sat 8.5 back of a Wildcard berth, 19.5 out and in last place in the NL West.
But the Giants suddenly and unexpectedly turned their season around, and turned the playoff race on its head. They have won 19 of their last 24, moved to second place in their division, and are just 2.5 back in the Wildcard hunt, 1.5 back of the Phillies.
The franchise has won three World Series titles in this decade: 2010, 2012 and 2014. They also reached the playoffs in 2016, the last postseason appearance for the team. With an aging ball club that has finished a collective 60 games below .500 over the last two seaons, this winning burst has shocked most in the game. Can it continue? Can this team possibly sustain their recent hot streak?
On Wednesday, the MLB trade deadline arrives. It was expected that the Giants were going to be a seller. That was the general consensus as recently as three weeks ago. Now, could Farhan Zaidi instead become a buyer, hoping to inject just enough talent to push the Giants back to the postseason for another run?
The Giants offense has averaged just 4.37 runs per game this season, 25th of the 30 teams in baseball. Their 109 home runs are next-to-last in the NL, as is their .698 OPS. Their combined .237 batting average is the lowest mark in the league, and their 28 steals are tied for last. In other words, this is a team that even Phillies pitching without Aaron Nola getting a start should be able to contain.
On the mound, Giants pitching is middle-of-the-road with a .251 batting average against, and ranks 13th in strikeouts and 14th in OPS against. In other words, they should not be a major challenge for the Phillies inconsistent offense.
These two teams have played one another tough over the last three seasons, with the Phillies holding an 11-9 edge in those head-to-head meetings. They will meet again by the bay at Oracle Park in San Francisco in a four-game series during the second week of August.
This is a veteran Giants team that has suddenly remembered what it was like to win 7-8-9 years ago. Many of the position players were around with those title teams. That makes them tough while they are hot. But frankly, this is a team that the Phillies ought to be able to handle. This needs to be a series win, preferably a sweep for the home team.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
TOP LINEUP THREATS
Alex Dickerson (29/LF): .391/.454/.782, 6 HR, 19 XBH, 23 RBIs, 21 runs (traded to SFG from SD in mid-June)
Kevin Pillar (30/CF): .245/.275/.408, 12 HR, 38 XBH, 54 RBIs, 50 runs
Pablo Sandoval (32/3B): .266/.310/.510, 13 HR, 33 XBH, 38 RBIs, 39 runs
Brandon Belt (31/1B): .233/.350/.390, 11 HR, 30 XBH, 36 RBIs, 50 runs
Buster Posey (32/C): .264/.329/.396, 5 HR, 25 XBH, 29 RBIs, 32 runs
Joe Panik (28/2B): .232/.306/.313, 3 HR, 20 XBH, 27 RBIs, 33 runs
Brandon Crawford (32/SS): .234/.307/.376, 9 HR, 29 XBH, 44 RBIs, 40 runs
Madison Bumgarner: Just as the Giants don’t have to worry about facing Aaron Nola, the Phillies will not face MadBum in these three games. Both aces went on Sunday for their respective teams. Bumgarner is 6-7 with a 3.74 ERA, 1.153 WHIP and 3.67 FIP thus far in 2019. He has made 23 starts, allowing 132 hits across 139.2 innings with a 140/29 K:BB ratio.
What makes Bumgarner relevant as this series progresses is the MLB trade deadline, which arrives on Wednesday afternoon at 4:00 PM EDT. For months now, Bumgarner has been one of the names subject to the most speculation. He will turn 30 years old on Thursday, the day after the deadline passes, and is due to become a free agent after this season.
Do the Giants really believe they can contend this season? Personally, I don’t. But if they do, perhaps Bumgarner stays. If Zaidi is as smart as I think he is, then a trade of the Giants longtime ace would be a major story right in the middle of this series.
In case you need a reminder of his résumé, Bumgarner was a National League All-Star and finished among the top ten in NL Cy Young Award voting each year from 2013-16. In 2014, the lefty was MVP of both the NLCS and World Series, helping earn his third World Series ring with the Giants. He was also named the AP Male Athlete of the Year for 2014.
Topping it all off, and important for a National League pitcher at this point, he can hit. Bumgarner took home a Silver Slugger in both 2014 and 2015. While teams acquiring him would certainly not be getting MadBum in his prime, they would indeed be getting a pitcher who can still pitch near the top of a rotation, one with tremendous, winning experience.
SCHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS
TUESDAY – Tyler Beede (26/RH): 3-4, 4.85 ERA, 5.24 FIP, 1.477 WHIP, 66 hits over 65 IP across 13 games (11 starts) with a 62/30 K:BB
WEDNESDAY – Jeff Samardzija (34/RH): 7-8, 3.95 ERA, 4.58 FIP, 1.178 WHIP, 105 hits over 116.1 IP across 21 starts with a 102/32 K:BB
THURSDAY – Shaun Anderson (24/RH): 3-3, 5.06 ERA, 4.68 FIP, 1.487 WHIP, 85 hits over 74.2 IP across 14 starts with a 53/26 K:BB (as of the series opening his is listed as a TBD by the Giants, but it has been Anderson’s turn in the rotation)
Bruce Bochy: Now 64 years of age, Bochy was actually born in Landes de Bussac, France while his father was serving in the U.S. Army. His family ultimately moved to Florida, and he became the first round draft choice at 23rd overall in the 1975 MLB Draft by the Houston Astros.
Bochy reached the big-leagues with Houston in 1978, beginning what would become a nine-season career as a player in Major League Baseball. A catcher, he was famously plowed into by Pete Rose, who was scoring what would prove to be the winning run in the top of the 10th inning as the Phillies rallied to tie up the 1980 NLCS at two games apiece. He was the backup catcher with the San Diego Padres team that won a National League pennant in 1984.
After his retirements as a player, Bochy was hired to manage in the San Diego minor league system. In 1993 he was moved up to the big club, taking over as the third base coach. Then for the 1995 season, Bochy was finally hired as manager of the Padres. Over 12 years as skipper in southern California, Bochy amassed a 951-975 record, guiding the Friars to four division crowns and a 1998 NL pennant.
Let go following the 2006 season, Bochy immediately caught on as manager with the division-rival Giants, and has been the skipper in San Francisco ever since. Over 13 years by the bay, Bochy has a 1,029-1,021 record and has led the Giants to three World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014. His 2016 team went to the postseason as a Wildcard team.
Overall, Bochy is now in his 25th consecutive season as a manager in Major League Baseball. He has a combined record of 1,980-1,996 between his work with the Padres and Giants organizations. He is just 28 wins behind Leo Durocher for 10th place on the all-time MLB managerial wins list, 60 behind Walter Alston for 9th place on that list. That top ten spot is his goal, as Bochy has battled health issues and has already announced that this will be his final season as manager.
SERIES WEATHER REPORT
TUESDAY: It will be a hot time in the old town tonight. Real-feel for the 7:05 pm first pitch is expected in the mid-90’s with moderate winds and no chance of precipitation.
WEDNESDAY: It is going to storm during the day on Wednesday. Question is, how might it affect the game, if at all? Right now the call is for real-feel temps in the mid-80’s at the scheduled 7:05 pm first pitch. There is a 45% chance of showers and tstorms, decreasing throughout the night with light winds.
THURSDAY: For this first game of August, the 1:05 pm first pitch should see a real-feel in the mid-80’s with light winds. There is a slight chance of a lingering shower or tstorm, but nothing that should be a major factor.
South Philly forecast from The Weather Channel
MLB TRADE DEADLINE UPDATES FROM PHILLIES NATION:
- Phillies acquire lefty Jason Vargas in trade with Mets
- Closer Alex Colome is reportedly of continued interest to Phillies
- NL exec says that the Phillies keep changing their minds on dealing Maikel Franco
- Phillies reportedly among teams looking into Cincy starter Tanner Roark
- Trevor Bauer trade reportedly discussed between Phillies and Indians