SB Nation Blog
The Opponent in one sentence
The Phillies have arrived a bit early and lead the National League East thanks to a solid all-around roster that includes some star-level talent on both sides of the ball.
Red Sox 0, Phillies 0
The Phillies are obviously having a great year, but they’ve kind of staggered a bit out of the All-Star break. In ten games since the start of the second half — seven of which have come against the Reds and Padres — they’ve gone an even .500. That includes losing their last three in Cincinnati.
7/30: David Price vs. Aaron Nola, 7:10 PM ET
This should be an interesting start for Price, who has been mostly good of late, though doing so against mostly not good teams. He’s also coming off something of an extended break, as the last time he got a start he only had to throw one inning before the game was cancelled. The Red Sox opted not to push him up for another, earlier outing, instead keeping him on his regular rest. This is going to be an interesting test for Price against a lineup that can tee off on left-handed pitching if they aren’t careful. We’ve seen both sides of the coin with Price this year, but if he has command of his cutter and is separating the velocities of his fastball and changeup, he should be able to put up a strong outing.
The issue for Price and the Red Sox is that they are not only going up against the Phillies best pitcher, they are going up against one of the best pitcher in all of baseball. Nola is not yet a household name, nor is he in the Chris Sale tier, but he’s not as far off as you may think. He strikes out at least a batter per inning year in and year out, he has stellar command, keeps the ball on the ground and limits hard contact. Through 21 starts he has pitched to a 2.42 ERA, a 2.67 FIP and a 2.35 DRA. He’s also been remarkably consistent all year, allowing more than three runs just twice this year. It’s going to be a tough test. Nola features a four-seamer in the low-to-mid-90s, a two-seamer a tick or two below that, a curveball and a changeup.
7/31: Drew Pomeranz vs. Jake Arrieta, 7:10 PM ET
Hold on to your butts, because drew Pomeranz is inexplicably getting another start. The Red Sox haven’t gotten anything from the lefty this season, and in his first start after coming off the disabled list it was more of the same. There is an optimistic way of looking at that outing in which you point to the fact that the runs he allowed came off two homers, so it was really just two bad pitches. However, his command was still erratic and, more importantly, his fastball was still sitting in the 86-88 range and topped out at 89. That’s just not going to work, and if there isn’t substantial improvement on Tuesday this should be his last start for the foreseeable future.
Arrieta was one of the big free agents who waited deep into the winter before finding his deal, and when the Phillies signed him it was a sign that they were ready to go for it again. The former Oriole and Cub isn’t quite the ace he was for a few years in Chicago, but he’s been solid for the Phillies with a 3.45 ERA through 20 starts. That ERA may overstate things a bit, though, as Arrieta is not missing bats while also not getting his walk rate down any more than it was. As a result, he’s been more average by FIP (4.07) and DRA (4.43). Arrieta will feature a mid-90s sinker along with a changeup and a curveball.
Gabe Kapler will forever be a fan favorite in Boston as a member of the 2004 team. He spent a grand total four years with the Red Sox and then later was a manager in their minor-league system. Now, he’s in his first year as the Phillies’ manager. Things got off to an awful start for the first-year skipper, but he’s righted the ship in a big way since then and seems to be doing a great job with his new team. Expect him to get a big ovation from Fenway fans this week.
Notable Position Players
Rhys Hoskins is far and away the most fearsome bat in this Phillies lineup. The young slugger as legitimate power and is going to be a threat to leave the yard every time he comes to the plate in this series. He also combines that with a very good eye at the plate that does more than enough to balance out his relatively high strikeout rate.
Cesar Hernandez is one of the more underrated second basemen in baseball. He won’t hit for much power, but provides value on the bases and in the field while also getting on base at a high clip (.374 OBP in 2018, .373 OBP over the last three years) atop the lineup.
Odubel Herrera can go hot and cold and is a very aggressive hitter, but he’s a blast to watch. There’s real pop in the bat and he’s a great athlete that shows it off in the field and on the bases.
Carlos Santana was a potential Red Sox target in free agency this past winter, but he’s had a disappointing year. His plate discipline is on point as always and he’s had good (though not great) power, but he’s getting killed by batting average on balls in play.
Asdrubal Cabrera was just picked up via trade a few days ago and was a speculated target for the Red Sox. His plate discipline is only average at best, but he has very good bat-to-ball skills.
Maikel Franco has had a bit of a disappointing start to his career, but he’s had a solid year in 2018 showing off good power with an aggressive approach.
Jorge Alfaro is a boom-or-bust catcher with loud tools but also a ton of swing and miss and a very aggressive approach.
Nick Williams is in the same mold as Franco and Alfaro in terms of aggression and power, though it’s to less of an extreme.
Seranthony Dominguez has emerged as the top arm in Philadelphia’s bullpen, combining strikeouts, a lack of walks and ground balls at just 23 years old. Kapler doesn’t hold him to just the ninth, but he’ll be in if there’s a late-and-close situation against the top of the Red Sox order.
Victor Arano, Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter are a strong trio of right-handed set-up men who come at you from different angles and velocities.
Adam Morgan is the Phillies top left-handed option, though he’s not a true difference maker.
J.P. Crawford had been taking most of the time at third base this year but he’s been out with a hand injury since late June. He should be making his way back soon, but not in time for this series.
Jerad Eickhoff has been a solid starter for a few years now, but he’s missed this entire season with a shoulder injury. He could be back by the end of the year, however.
Edubray Ramos went down last week with a knee injury, and his timetable to return is unclear.
Pedro Florimon has been out since May, but he could be back at some point in the next few weeks.
It should be a fine couple of days at Fenway. It’s going to be a bit humid and sticky, but they’ll be playing baseball.