After an expected series win against the Astros, the Braves will be heading back to Philadelphia to face the Phillies for the third time within a month. The Phillies took two of three from Arizona this weekend, escaping the cellar for the first time since late June. Since the last meeting, Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino, and Joe Blanton have all been traded and Carlos Ruiz went down with a foot injury, eliminating any hope for a miracle run this year.
Game 1 – Monday 7:05 ET – Ben Sheets vs. Vance Worley
Sheets looks to rebound from his first loss of the season, trying to get through a very lefty-heavy lineup. Worley has been struggling lately, posting a 6.43 ERA and allowing a .354/.411/.543 slashline in July. He did not allow an earned run in his last start, but he also didn’t strike a hitter out. He is pitching with bone chips in his elbow, surprising considering the Phillies’ destiny this year.
Game 2 – Tuesday 7:05 ET – Mike Minor vs. Cole Hamels
Minor looks to continue his great run, having posted a 1.74 ERA since the beginning of July, though he is still struggling to keep the ball in the park. Hamels has also had his share of problems with home runs, though his great K/BB ratio has limited the damage on those shots. His $144M contract is not likely to be an albatross, but he’s never shown the elite level performance to warrant such a deal.
Game 3 – Wednesday 7:05 ET – Tim Hudson vs. Kyle Kendrick
Huddy looks to bounce back from a 116-pitch outing his last time out, so we may see a bit tighter of a hook on this night. Kendrick is the replacement for Blanton, at least for the short-term. Kendrick is the definition of fungible: no putaway pitch, not the greatest control, and doesn’t keep the ball in the park consistently. His ERA, FIP, and xFIP as a starter are all in the 4.50’s, so while he doesn’t kill the team, he also doesn’t get you ahead either.
Q & A With Phillies Writer
I asked Ethan Seidel of That Ball’s Outta Here a few questions about the transition period the Phillies are going through.
1) What is your take on the Victorino and Pence deals compared to the overall fanbase?
Ethan) Victorino was going to be traded one way or another. The Phillies didn’t want to fork over 5 years or the money it would take to re-sign him. They got a bullpen arm and a young pitching prospect who still has potential, so they got a decent return for a 2-month rental player. Vic was popular with the fans, so his departure was met with mixed feelings, but he wasn’t in the team’s long term plans.
Pence to the Giants was a bit of a shocker. As soon as the team signed Hamels to his mega-deal someone had to be the victim of payroll slashing. The team was already near the luxury tax threshold, and Pence’s salary was too much to bear. Tommy Joseph becomes the team’s best positional prospect (which says more about the state of the system). Nate Shierholtz is a cheap left handed bat who plays a better right field, but overall it’s nothing close to what they gave up a year ago. It may be a bit unfair to compare the two deals since the Phillies got a productive year out of Pence, but with no World Series to show for it this trade may not be remembered too fondly when all is said and done.
2) Do you think Domonic Brown can become something close to what most thought he could be?
Ethan) Dominic Brown is the big wild card amidst all the trades and salary dumping the Phillies have done. With Pence and Victorino gone, Brown has two months to play without worrying everyday if he’ll be in the lineup. It could be the perfect situation for him, but only if he keeps the pressure off himself. Being in last place always helps with that, but Brown will still need to show the Phillies something before the end of the year. They will need at least one outfielder in the off-season but may not be able to afford two. He may not be a “Mike Trout” level prospect anymore, but he can still become a valuable regular for the Phillies moving forward.
3) Which contract do you think is/will create the biggest problem for Philadelphia in future planning?
Ethan) Ryan Howard. All the whispers and rumors have circled around Cliff Lee‘s $97 million he is owed, but he has been more productive than Howard. Not to mention this year was the first of the Big Piece’s 5-year deal. Howard has been on a steady decline since his MVP season, and is now making the slow road back from blowing out his achilles injury. The Phillies NEED him to become the feared power hitter of old because no one is going to take that contract off their hands anytime soon.