MLB

Phillies-Red Sox series preview: Another chance to get the bats back on track

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

After winning four straight games, the Philadelphia Phillies (64-60, 3rd in NL East) disappointingly dropped their series against the San Diego Padres this past weekend. What looked like a reinvigorated offense reverted back to their previous state. Now the Phillies are onto Boston, a team that has also had its fair share of disappointments this season. Are the Phillies able to continue to make one last push for a playoff run? Let’s find out.

Pitching Match-ups and Start Times:

Tuesday 8/20, 7:10 p.m.: Aaron Nola (-103) vs. Brian Johnson (-107)
Wednesday 8/21, 7:10 p.m.: Drew Smyly vs. Rick Porcello

Despite a few pitchers still plaguing the Phillies, the pitching staff, for the most part, held it’s own during the Phillies four-game winning streak. Even in the two losses, the staff did enough to keep the Phillies in it. In fact, the Phillies pitching has only allowed 3.33 runs per game since the start of the Cubs series on August 13. It’s a shame that the Phillies weren’t able to fully capitalize on the week of good pitching. This, unfortunately, is not going to last, so when the staff can put together any good week of baseball, the Phillies need to take advantage.

What has been going right? Let’s start with a few starting pitchers that have really stepped up in the absence of Jake Arrieta and a reliable fifth starter. Aaron Nola, of course, played a big part, shutting down the Cubs lineup in seven innings of work. Jason Vargas has also continued to be solid in a Phillies uniform. He allowed only two runs in 5.2 innings of work. And even though there is still Vince Velasquez slander, which I just don’t get, he also has been steady for the Phils. The disappointment, however, still resides with Zach Eflin and Nick Pivetta.

It’s honestly been the biggest, and most detrimental, mistakes that Matt Klentak has made in his tenure. Eflin and Pivetta were both supposed to be key pieces in a playoff run, but instead, they have been the two of the bigger reasons why the Phillies are likely going to miss the postseason. Again, this falls more on Klentak not having any backup plan and completely missing on their evaluations.

However, as much as I have been critical of the Phillies pitching, the staff put together a very good week. If there are to keep their playoff hopes alive, they need to continue to do so, which will be a tough challenge.

What to Watch For:

At the beginning of the year, there were two players that I was most interested in. Both were considered stars, but I don’t think we fully knew what kind of player each would be moving forward. Well, we may be finding our answer to both. Those two players are Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins.

Harper at times in his career has been a .300 hitter, but last year was down to a .249. Both I thought were extremes and that Harper could middle out, possibly becoming anywhere from a .265-to-.275 average at the dish. Well, he isn’t quite that, but we’ve seen at times that Harper can put together some outstanding stretches at the plate. He can’t put together a strong enough season to be the MVP-hitter he once was, but when that does show, it’s an impressive display of hitting.

As for Hoskins, his struggles swinging the bat are concerning. While we were all awestruck by the historic power numbers to start his career, Hoskins’ true potential as a hitter was yet to be realized. Then in 2018, we saw a significant dip in power numbers. In a small sample size in 2017, Hoskins OPS was an outstanding 1.014. Last season it went down to a .850. At times this season Hoskins OPS was hovering above .900, which is very good, but now in a prolonged cold streak as gone all the way down to .854.

What’s concerning is the realization that Hoskins may not be as good as we had hoped. No, it wasn’t expected for him to be a top batter in baseball. His approach at the plate does not allow him to post spectacular numbers, but as baseball has coveted OPS more, Hoskins seemed like the perfect hitter for baseball in 2019. In order for Hoskins’ approach to work, he needs to be an efficient slugger, but as we now are coming to an end of his third season, it seems as though he is not able to do so.

Prop Bets (from Monkey Knife Fight):

Game 1:

Aaron Nola – o/u 5.5 strikeouts – Nola has surpassed the 5.5 strikeout mark in eight of his last ten starts. OVER

Total – o/u 11 – Nola has been great this month and there is no reason he can’t continue that against the Red Sox.  Although the Red Sox have to turn to Brian Johnson, I don’t think the Phillies or Red Sox will be able to reach the 11 run total. UNDER

Other Notes:

I am one that has continued to stand by Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, but I just don’t understand why there is the need for it. Yes, the Phillies have been disappointing, but it’s hardly the fault of the Phillies manager. I’ve stated this plenty of the past couple of months, but the woes of this season fall on the shoulders of Matt Klentak. I’ll add that if John Middleton wasn’t willing to open up the checkbook as well for another pitcher, the fault falls with him as well.

So I’ll leave this open and maybe answer these as they come in, but if you think Kapler is at fault for the Phillies season, let me know why. Is it just his approach to managing/lineup construction, or do you think the performance of the team falls squarely on Kapler? This will be a good exercise for you and me both, as maybe I have been blind to some of the Kapler concerns and maybe you will learn that some of the criticisms of Kapler are unwarranted.

Let me know on Twitter at (@jjansen34) and (@PHL_Influencer).


You can follow Jon Jansen on Twitter (@jjansen34) and e-mail him at jpjansen12@gmail.com.

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