SB Nation Blog
The opponent in one sentence
The Phillies continue to frustrate their fanbase by putting up middling performances after big spending, but they are just barely outside the playoff picture as things stand today.
Up. The Phillies had some trouble getting going this year, probably at least partially due to the start-and-stop nature of their season that came from playing the Marlins right at the start of their breakout. They are hitting their stride now, though, coming off a big three-game sweep of the Mets.
8/18: Zack Godley vs. Zach Eflin, 7:30 PM ET
Heading into his last start, Godley had been the rare bulk arm or starter or long reliever or however you want to group the multi-inning pitchers who was actually pitching well. Over his first three appearances the righty had a 3.97 ERA and only allowed runs in one of those three appearances. Then he faced the Rays last week and got shelled. Godley was a home run machine and ended up allowing eight runs on ten hits, three of which were dingers, over just three innings of work, ballooning his ERA up to 8.16 on the year. Look for him to keep the ball down in the zone and on the ground, because if he’s giving up balls in the air that is when things start to go downhill quickly.
Eflin is a former first round pick who has had a couple of solid years in the majors but he’s struggled to get his numbers above average. The righty has only had a couple of starts so far this year, but he’s looked solid thus far. Overall Eflin has pitched to a 3.60 ERA over ten innings with a very impressive 15/2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He did allow a couple of homers to the Orioles in his last start, but before that he allowed just two unearned runs in his first start against the mighty Yankees lineup. The strikeout rate has been most striking, and the Red Sox should be aggressive and try to get some of these balls in play. Eflin has made a tangible change this year, emphasizing his sinker rather than his fastball. He pairs that with a slider and a changeup.
8/19: Kyle Hart vs. Jake Arrieta, 1:30 PM ET (MLB Network for out of market)
Hart is doing something that has been very rare over the last decade or so, which is a rookie, homegrown starting pitcher actually making two consecutive starts. Things didn’t go very well for the lefty in his first career start against the Rays, but eventually the Red Sox need to give guys a chance to adjust on the fly. With Hart, we saw the flaws. His stuff is not overpowering, which means he can’t afford to work in the zone. If he’s working the edges, he will have success against most major-league lineups, and that includes a good one like that of the Phillies. But the margin of error is very small. This is going to be a monster test, especially coming off the last outing.
Since coming over from the Cubs in free agency a few years ago, Arrieta has not been able to live up to his contract. He hasn’t been a total disaster, but he’s hovered around league-average with injury issues as well. The righty has been solid this year, though, particularly in his first two starts. His last time out was was a little bit of a grind, though, allowing four runs over 4 2⁄3 innings with seven hits. The big thing with Arrieta this year has been his control, as he’s cut his walk rate down to 3.3 percent after typically sitting around eight percent for most of his career. The Red Sox would do well to be patient in this one. Arrieta will feature a sinker, a slider and a changeup.
Notable Position Players
Bryce Harper is the face of this Phillies franchise and should be for the next decade. He’s certainly living up to that contract early this season as he has been a monster in the middle of this lineup, putting up a 209 wRC+. He walks, he doesn’t strike out and he hits homers. What else do you want?
J.T. Realmuto is a hot name in Philly right now as fans are desperate for the Phillies to sign him to an extension. In the meantime, he just continues to be the best catcher in the game, putting up a 179 wRC+ while playing plus defense behind the plate.
Andrew McCutchen has been one of the struggling bats in this Phillies lineup. After missing most of last season, he’s come back this year and has not been able to barrel up the ball.
Didi Gregorius is one of my favorite players in the game and he is thriving outside of New York with his aggressive style at the plate, quiet pop and strong defense at shortstop.
Rhys Hoskins shockingly has not hit a home run yet this season despite having monster power, but he’s keeping his head above water at the plate thanks to a huge 22 percent walk rate.
Jean Segura has a .225 batting average on balls in play, which is the only thing holding him back this year as his peripherals suggest he’s been a tremendous hitter this year.
Jay Bruce is in a platoon, and while he’s in the latter part of his career he still mashes against righties.
Alec Bohm is one of the top prospects in the organization and just got the call up. His defense is questionable, but the bat is tremendous.
Scott Kingery got a late start to camp and has yet to get going with an ugly -14 wRC+ to start the year.
Héctor Neris is the closer in a Phillies bullpen that has been an adventure this year, and fittingly he has an ERA above 7.00.
Tommy Hunter has done a good job at avoid walks, but he doesn’t miss bats and has been giving up a ton of hits in a set up role.
Adam Morgan is the top lefty in this bullpen and makes it a perfect three for three among late-inning Phillies relievers with a BABIP over .400.
Seranthony Dominguez was supposed to be the closer this year but is out all season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Adam Haseley just went down with a wrist injury, but he shouldn’t miss much time.
David Robertson hasn’t been able to get anything going since signing with the Phillies. He is progressing in his rehab from Tommy John, though, and could return before the end of the year.
Roman Quinn just hit the IL after reporting COVID symptoms, but as of now he has not tested positive as far as we know.
Ranger Suárez hasn’t been able to pitch due to a positive COVID test, but he’s working his way back and could return soon.
Reggie McClain suffered a shoulder injury at the start of this month. His timetable is unclear.
It’s looking like a good couple of days of sunshine at Fenway.