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Phillies vs. Cubs series preview: Bryce Harper carries the Phillies into a tough National League match-up

After a disappointing series against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Philadelphia Phillies (27-19, 1st in NL East) bounced back by sweeping the Colorado Rockies. Now the Phillies travel to Chicago to take a team they are looking up to in the National League standings. The Cubs are 15-6 at home this season and being on the road has not been to kind the Phillies.

Pitching Match-ups and Start Times:

Monday 5/20, 8:05 p.m.: Jake Arrieta (+117) vs. Yu Darvish (-127)
Tuesday 5/21, 7:00 p.m.: Zach Eflin vs. Jose Quintana
Wednesday 5/22, 8:05 p.m.: Cole Irvin vs. Cole Hamels
Thursday 5/23, 2:20 p.m.:Β Aaron Nola vs. Jon Lester

It has not been a good showing for the Phillies pitching staff in the past two series. Even in the series sweep against the Rockies, only Aaron Nola was able to stifle the bats of Colorado. Despite the struggles from the pitching staff, the Phillies have been able to stop atop of the NL East.

Until the Phillies can add a starter, this is what we can expect from the starting rotation. Yes, Jerad Eickhoff and Zach Eflin can provide the Phillies with quality starts at times, but there has never been a point in either of their careers where they have shown that consistently. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re bad options for the Phillies, it just doesn’t help when most of the rotation consists of back-end starters.

For now, the Phillies will just need to stay afloat at the top of the NL East. As shown already, the Phillies can do that with the current rotation. There have already been reports of the Phillies showing interest in adding a starter and reliever this summer. After the past two series, it’s evident that the Phillies will need that help if they are to make a deep playoff run.

What to Watch For:

Bryce. Harper.

Phillies fans have been waiting for over a month to see the home run hitting boy in full swing and it has finally arrived. Harper provided a key double on Friday and then Saturday launched a ball in Ashburn Alley in center field. He then capped off the series with another home run.

The disappointment of the Brewers series stung, but Harper took things into his own hands and helped the Phillies to sweep Colorado. The question now is if this is truly a turn around for the Phillies $330 million man or just a few good games.

The biggest improvement will need to lowering his strikeout rate. Harper leads the league in strikeouts, which has now always been the case in his career. It will be concerning if this is the new norm now for Harper but I don’t think that is the case yet. As we get into the summer days and get into the heart of the season, the Phillies will need Harper to play the way he has in recent games.

Prop Bets (fromΒ Monkey Knife Fight):

Game 1:
Yu Darvish – o/u 6.5 strikeouts – Darvish had 11 strikeouts in his last start. Comes down to whether or not Darvish is out there long enough to reach the over, although he had seven strikeouts in just four innings on May 9.Β OVER
Jake Arrieta – o/u 5.5 strikeouts – Arrieta is facing off against his former team for the first time in his career, but I have a tough time seeing Arrieta racking up strikeouts here.Β UNDER
Total Runs – o/u 8.5 runs – Darvish and Arrieta have been unpredictable this season, but there is a better chance that these two lineups put up runs against the opposing pitchers. OVER

DFS Play: Bryce Harper

Harper is heating up, but his price in DFS has not shifted up yet. Again, it’s tough to tell if this is really a turn around for Harper. Consider a DFS play for Harper today as a heat check.

Other Notes:

I was noticeably absent this weekend. There were plenty of fireworks on the field, but I was not able to congratulate the home run hitting boy Harper like I usually do. Instead I was congratulating and celebrating the wedding of my brother and sister-in-law.

My family has possibly some of the most passionate Eagles fans and Philadelphia sports fans I know. It was evident that everyone I talked to at the wedding was excited for this Phillies squad and the upcoming Eagles season. Some of them already have attended three or more Phillies games this season.

I couldn’t help but think about the possibilities of the upcoming summer in Philadelphia. With the display of power the Phillies are capable of and the expectations of playoff baseball, Citizens Bank Park will be rocking all summer. Attend as many Phillies games as you can and enjoy the first meaningful summer of baseball in a few years in Philly.

But right now, let me one last time congratulate my brother and sister-in-law for getting married over the weekend!

You can follow Jon Jansen on Twitter (@jjansen34) and e-mail him at [email protected].

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