TALE OF THE TAPE
NL WILD CARD STANDINGS
WHAT’S THE STORY
The Phillies have won 7 straight since, 6 since they fired manager Joe Girardi on June 3rd and installed Rob Thomson as interim manager. Looking at the table above one can see they were severely underperforming their Pythagorean W% under Girardi. They swept the Angels, which everyone seems to do these days, but then swept a very good Brewers team in Milwaukee, outscoring the Brew Crew and their vaunted pitching staff 21-5.
The potent Philly lineup is lead by Bryce Harper, who is having an MVP caliber season playing mostly at DH. He’s not being able to play the outfield due to a small tear in his UCL elbow ligament. He had a PRP injection May 17th and can’t throw for 6-8 weeks. But he’s still mashing at the plate, to the tune of .308/.364/.637, 1.001 OPS, 168 wRC+
The Phillies have homered 16 times in their last 6 games getting the biggest contributions from Harper, Kyle Schwarber, Bryson Stott and the recently activated Didi Gregorius. Jean Segura is on the IL with a fractured finger, and Stott is filling in for him.
The Phillies have a very good rotation and the most recent turn through has been a good one, with most of their starters getting deep in games. The much maligned Philadelphia bullpen has even been putting up zeroes when they need to as well.
The D-backs salvaged a split of a 4 game series with the Reds at Cincinnati, winning the final two games, including a come from behind 5-4 victory on Thursday. That came on the heels of dropping two of three against the Pirates in Pittsburgh. What was supposed to be a soft spot in the schedule has been anything but. A week ago a 10 game road trip through these three cities was viewed as a chance to get their record back above .500. Now the Diamondbacks need to at least win 2 of 3 just to come away with a 5-5 record for the trip.
Arizona has been plagued by inconsistent, feast or famine offense lately, and closer Mark Melancon has continued to struggle, picking up his 6th loss with a blown save against the Pirates on June 4th. He pitched the 8th inning on Thursday and ceded the 9th to Ian Kennedy who got the save despite surrendering a solo homer.
Despite numerous challenges the team has continued to avoid the deep spirals that took place last year. Each time it looks like they are headed towards a long losing streak they pull off a few wins to stop the bleeding. Something the 2021 could not do.
Be sure to check out the transactions during the next couple of days as it’s possible that Carson Kelly could be activated during the series and that will have knock on effect for the roster. The team may also elect to wait until they return to Phoenix Monday to bring Kelly back.
Arizona last 7 days relief pitching batting against (WARNING! Not for feint of heart)
STARTING PITCHING MATCHUPS
Zac Gallen battled through 6 innings allowing just two runs in a 3-0 loss to the Pirates last Sunday. He’s allowed 2 runs or fewer in 9 of his 10 outings this year. The only thing holding Gallen back from being a true Cy Young contender is a tendency to nibble when ahead and failing to pitch beyond the 6th inning in most of his starts. He’s never gone deeper than 7 innings in his career.
Kyle Gibson couldn’t get out of the 4th inning in his last start, allowing 5 runs to the Angels in a game the Phillies would come back to win 9-7. He’s had a couple of other rough outings, but 7 of his 10 starts have been good or competitive. His peripherals, walks, K/s, and HR all look pretty decent. He’s pitched better than his ERA indicates.
Madison Bumgarner allowed 4 runs in 5 innings against the Reds last Monday. He’s taken the lost in 4 of his last 5 outings, giving up 18 runs, including 6 homers in 29 IP. He’s been falling behind early, giving up runs early in games and putting the team in a hole before settling in. Limiting the damage early and giving his offense time to get in the game is critical for his chances at victory
Zack Wheeler is having another very good season. A legit Cy Young Contender last year, he’s actually pitched even better than his 3.14 ERA, as the peripheral numbers are all lower. He beat the Angels June 4th going 6 innings, allowing 2 runs, while walking 2 and striking out 9. His wife just had a baby and his start was pushed back a day, flip flopping with Gibson, giving him an extra day to return.
The 5th spot in the D-backs rotation remains fluid with Humberto Castellanos on the IL and Tyler Gilbert getting crushed by the Reds. It’s possible the team goes with newly signed Dallas Keuchel. Luke Weaver is also a possibility. He pitched 4 innings in a rehab assignment on the 7th. He could line up to go 5/75 perhaps. Prospect Tommy Henry is a long shot. Corbin Martin is not an option as he pitched Thursday night for Reno.
Ranger Suarez got a no decision June 7th, despite going 7 innings and allowing just 2 runs against the Brewers. While his season ERA is not great, he’s tough on lefties and the D-backs don’t typically hit left handed starters well.
The pitching matchups favor the Phillies in games 2 & 3 of the series, and their slugger filled lineup is hot. Once again it will fall to Zac Gallen to be an ace and a stopper, needing to stop the Phillies momentum cold in order to get this series started off right. It will be a big challenge.