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With All-Star Break looming, Phillies turn to their ace

Aaron Nola has heated up prior to the All-Star Break. (Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire)

After defeating the Mets six straight over the course of three series, the Philadelphia Phillies (46-43) dropped a 6-5 decision to the host New York Mets (40-49) last night at Citi Field as starting pitcher Jake Arrieta (6.63 ERA and a misleading 3-3 record over his past seven games) continued to falter. He only lasted 4.1 innings, but hung around long enough to plunk three different batters that ultimately led to the ejections of Mets manager Mickey Callaway and infielder Todd Frazier.

This afternoon, the Phils look to finish a mercurial first half of the season with an increasingly rare series victory. Since defeating the Cincinnati Reds two of three (June 7-9), the Phillies have dropped six of their last seven series. Although the Phillies are only one half game out of a Wild Card spot, eight potential Wild Card teams are separated by a mere three games.

On the mound for Philadelphia is Aaron Nola, who has been the only dependable Phillies starter for more than a month. He will face New York Mets righty Zack Wheeler. The last time these pitchers collided on June 27 at Citizens Bank Park, a pitcher’s duel transformed into an implausible offensive explosion. Although both Nola (7 IP, 1 hit, no runs, 1 walk, 10 Ks) and Wheeler (6 IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 7 Ks) were excellent, neither figured in the decision. After Hector Neris blew a save in the ninth (he has converted 17 of his 19 opportunities) and turned a 1-0 lead into a 3-1 deficit, the resilient home squad treated the remaining loyal fans to a frenzied celebration after Maikel Franco ripped a game-tying two-run blast and Juan Segura slammed a three-run walk-off homer for a memorable 6-3 Phillies victory.

Comparing today’s starting pitchers, the Phillies appear to have a definitive edge with the 1:10 start. In day games, Nola is 3-0 with a 3.71 ERA, while Wheeler is 2-4 with a 5.43 ERA. However, while Nola is outstanding at Citizens Bank Park (3-1, 2.85), he has struggled on the road (4-1, 5.73). Wheeler is 3-1 with a 4.13 ERA at Citi Field.

Among the Mets with prior success against Nola are Jeff McNeil (5-13) and Wilson Ramos (4-13), a strict contrast to Michael Conforto (4-26), Amed Rosario (4-20), Dominic Smith (3-15) and Frazier (0-13). For the Phillies, Cesar Hernandez 9-21, home run) and J.T. Realmuto (7-14) have given Wheeler headaches. while Maikel Franco (3-14), Rhys Hoskins (1-14), and Scott Kingery (2-9) have struggled.

Phillies Lineup

  1. Scott Kingery, center fielder
  2. Jean Segura, shortstop
  3. Bryce Harper, right field
  4. Rhys Hoskins, first base
  5. J.T. Realmuto, catcher
  6. Jay Bruce, left field
  7. Cesar Hernandez, second base
  8. Maikel Franco, third base
  9. Aaron Nola, pitcher

Mets Lineup

  1. Jeff McNeil, right field
  2. Pete Alonso, first base
  3. Robinson Cano, second base
  4. Todd Frazier, third base
  5. Dominic Smith, left field
  6. Wilson Ramos, catcher
  7. Amed Rosario, shortstop
  8. Juan Lagares, center field
  9. Zach Wheeler, pitcher

Shibe Vintage Sports Starting Pitching Matchup

  • Over the past seven games, Phillies RHP ace Aaron Nola (7-2, 3.89 ERA, 104 IP; 1.33 WHIP; 41 BB, 118 Ks) has regained the form he displayed when challenging for the National League Cy Young Award in 2018. In his last seven games, Nola is 2-2 with a 3.11 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP. He has surrendered a miserly one run, 11 hits and five walks, while whiffing 28 over his last 23 innings.
  • Mets LHP Zack Wheeler (6-5, 4.42 ERA, 114 IP, 1.25 WHIP, 32 BB, 123 Ks) has pitched well lately. Over 19.1 innings, he has allowed four runs, 12 hits, and four walks while striking out 20.

Pregame Phillies Nuggets

  • Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler might be better served hitting higher in the lineup. Defying logic, Wheeler’s slash line score of .297/.316/.432 ranks among New York’s top performers.
  • Although the two teams are separated by six games in the standings, the Mets have had the more challenging schedule. Of their 89 games, 65 were played when opponents sported a record of .500 or better; in the same amount of games, the Phillies faced 50 foes with a record of .500 or better.
  • The All-Star Break could not come at a better time for Phillies leadoff hitter Scott Kingery. Mired in a noticeable slump, Kingery has five hits and 10 strikeouts in his last 30 at bats. Over his last 15 games, his .626 OPS and 22-strikeout contribution is, to put it mildly, concerning.
  • Perhaps inspired by being named the Phillies lone All-Star representative (July 9 in Cleveland), Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto is heating up. Buoyed by a recent 12 hits in his last 28 at bats and an OPS of 1,003, the 28-year-old has lifted his batting average to a much more palatable .273.
  • In 27 games as a Phillie, left fielder Jay Bruce has hit .273 with a .867 OPS. In a rare occurrence last night, he failed to produce with the tying run on second base and two outs, striking out on a high fastball from struggling Mets reliever Edwin Diaz.

Programming Information

  • Sunday July 7 at 1:10 EDT at Citi Field, New York
  • TV: NBC Sports Philadelphia
  • Radio: SportsRadio 94 WIP; WTTM 1680 (Spanish)

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