Series Preview #8, vs. Philadelphia Phillies

Brian Kersey

The Diamondbacks try to capitalize on their two-game winning streak, as they start a six-game home stand against the inconsistent Philadelphia Phillies.

What's New?

After dropping the first two games in Chicago in rather disappointing fashion, the Diamondbacks finally showed some signs of life in their season, rallying for five runs in the ninth inning Wednesday to win 7-5 and snap a four-game losing streak. Rookie right hander Mike Bolsinger followed up Wednesday's win with his first career win, giving up one run in 6.2 innings of Arizona's 5-2 win. That marked only the second winning streak of the season for the Diamondbacks, wrapping up the road trip at 3-4. The Diamondbacks are actually just below .500 on the road (6-7), but have by far the worst home record in baseball (1-11). As a matter of fact, no other team in baseball has less than even three home victories this season. Arizona still has the worst winning percentage in baseball (.280), and are the only team in baseball with more than 15 losses (18).

It has been hard to see anything but mediocrity from the Phillies in 2014. They are exactly .500 (11-11), and have split their last ten games. They're 4-5 at home, and a solid 7-6 on the road. The Phillies are coming off taking three out of four games from the Dodgers in Los Angeles, including a 7-3 win Thursday night behind a four-run ninth inning powered by Carlos Ruiz's two-run double. Philadelphia is currently 4-3 on their NL West home stand, their first venture outside of the NL East since their opening series against the Brewers. Despite their solid start to the season, the Phillies are sitting in fourth place in a competitive NL East, four games behind the Braves for the division lead.

On The Mend

Diamondbacks outfielder Mark Trumbo was placed on the 15-day disabled list prior to their game Thursday against the Cubs with a foot injury. Trumbo will be getting a second opinion on what is being called a stress fracture in his left foot, which could be related to the plantar fasciitis he dealt with this spring, the Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro reported. Roger Kieschnick was added to the major league roster to take Trumbo's spot. Kieschnick was claimed off waivers from the San Francisco Giants earlier this April.

Arizona center fielder A.J. Pollock was held out of the lineup for the fourth consecutive game Thursday with tightness on the left side of his neck. Pollock has been listed as day-to-day since getting pulled from Sunday's game in Los Angeles. He did play in this past series in Chicago, pinch-running in Arizona's 7-5 win Wednesday.

Philadelphia left hander Cole Hamels made his first start of 2014 Wednesday in the Phillies' 5-2 loss to the Dodgers, going six innings and giving up two runs on five hits, getting pulled after 86 pitches. Hamels was activated off the 15-day disabled list Wednesday after dealing with biceps tendinitis in his left pitching elbow this offseason.

Chase Utley: A Career Resurgence

One of the quiet stories of 2014 has been the renewed health and hot start by Phillies second baseman Chase Utley. After dealing with multiple injury issues and age, Utley played in over 130 games for the first time since 2009 last season, also posting the most home runs and RBIs since the '09 campaign. That has carried over to a red-hot start to 2014, as he is hitting .384 through his first 18 games, getting on base 42.5% of the time and having a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 1.3.

Utley is currently fourth in baseball in batting average (.384), including a .410 BABIP, and is tied with Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt for the major league lead in doubles (10). Utley is also fourth in the majors in slugging percentage (.623), his highest since 2008. He also has an ISO (isolated power) of .260, which at this rate would be the highest of his career (had a .244 ISO in 2008).

With Utley's re-emergence and solid campaigns from first baseman Ryan Howard, outfielder Marlon Byrd, and the pitching staff of a healthy Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, it appears that the Phillies could be a dark horse contender to stay looming in the playoff hunt come the trade deadline, meaning that they could make a move toward playoff contention. The only question is: will Utley keep it up? During his prime years (2006-09), Utley led the majors in getting hit by a pitch three times (including an astounding 27 times in 2008), which could have been a factor in his body breaking down over the last couple years. Also, at age, 35, there is no denying the possibility of a second-half decline for the second baseman.

Pitching Matchups

Game 1, Friday 6:40 PM PT: RHP Roberto Hernandez (1-0, 5.75 ERA) vs. RHP Josh Collmenter (0-2, 4.50 ERA)

Hernandez had a solid start to 2014, going at least five innings and giving up less than three earned runs in each of his first three starts, but was shelled in his last appearance against the Rockies in Coors Field (4 IP, 9 ER on six hits) before finishing with a no decision. Hernandez is in his first year in Philadelphia, going 6-13 in 24 starts last year for Tampa Bay with a 4.89 ERA. Collmenter looked great through five innings of Sunday's start in Los Angeles, but had it all come apart in the sixth inning as he gave up a three-run home run to Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig. Collmenter finished the outing giving up four runs in six innings, taking the loss in the Dodgers' 4-1 win. Collmenter is 0-2 with a 6.30 ERA in his first two starts since taking over the spot in the rotation from Randall Delgado.

Game 2, Saturday 5:10 PM PT: LHP Cliff Lee (3-2, 3.09 ERA) vs. RHP Bronson Arroyo (1-2, 9.50 ERA)

Ever since giving up eight earned runs (and still getting the win) on Opening Day, Cliff Lee has given up just four earned runs in his last four starts. Despite having a 1.20 ERA in his last four starts, Lee has fallen victim to poor run support and gone just 2-2. Perhaps most shocking about his run of dominance has been the fact that he has walked just one batter over his last 30 innings, striking out 37 batters (1.23 K/inning). After being held back most of Spring Training with bulging disks in his back, Arroyo had his longest outing of the season last time out in Chicago, going 5.1 innings and giving up five runs in yet another losing effort. Arroyo has yet to exceed three strikeouts in a game this season, and has only exceeded five innings pitched twice this season.

Game 3, Sunday 1:10 PM PT: RHP A.J. Burnett (0-1, 2.73 ERA) vs. RHP Brandon McCarthy (0-4, 6.23 ERA)

Burnett, like Lee, has struggled with run support issues, having three quality starts through his first five outings, and has yet to pick up his first win despite his 2.73 ERA. He was great both on the mound and at the plate last time out, going 6.2 innings and giving up just two earned runs, as well as picking up three hits at the plate. McCarthy has had his share of struggles in 2014 (as I detailed in my last preview), and it was more of the same last time out in Chicago. McCarthy looked solid up until giving up a three-run home run to Mike Olt to open up a 9-2 blowout for the Cubs. He would finish with five runs given up (one earned) over five innings, and was saddled with the loss.

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