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Red Sox at Phillies Series Preview

And by series, we mean one (1) day of baseball.

Philadelphia Phillies v New York Mets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

SB Nation Blog

The Good Phight

The opponent in one sentence

The Phillies are one of the most clear win-now teams in all of baseball, and after a frustrating start to their season they’ve turned it on and are firmly in a playoff position.

Record

20-17

Head-to-head record

Red Sox 1, Phillies 1

Trend

Up-ish. As I said above, the Phillies have turned it on a bit and if this series had been over the weekend rather than after it, the Red Sox would have been taking on one of the hottest teams in the league. Heading into this past weekend’s series against the Mets, Philly had won nine of their last ten, and they won their first game of that series as well. However, they are coming off a disappointing split in Queens. Even with the so-so series last weekend, though, they’ve won 11 of their last 14.

Pitching Matchups

9/8: Martín Pérez vs. Zach Eflin, 4:05 PM ET

The Red Sox are starting off this strange doubleheader with the only pitcher on their staff capable of turning a seven-inning game into a complete game. That’s not to say I’d predict he’ll do it — this Phillies lineup is really good! — but he is the only pitcher who can physically pitch seven innings, so that’s neat. Pérez has been much better than I ever would have expected this season, as much as that pains me to admit. The lefty has pitched to a 4.07 ERA (116 ERA+) and is coming off one of his best starts of the year in which he tossed 6 23 innings and allowed just two runs. He carried a no-hitter against the Blue Jays into the seventh in that game. I’m still concerned about his peripherals as he strikes out barely over six batters per nine and walks about four per nine, but you can’t argue against the results. As I said, this Phillies lineup is no joke, so I’m interested to see how he performs against this group in what will be a legitimate test.

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Eflin, a former first round pick, hasn’t pitched all that well by ERA with a mark of 4.45 over his first six starts. That doesn’t really tell the full story of his season, though, as he’s turned into a strikeout machine and his peripherals suggest the results should be better over a larger sample. The righty has a strikeout rate over 30 percent, a wild increase from his previous career-high of 22 percent. He’s also walking batters at the second lowest rate of his career, below six percent. He’s been giving up a ton of hits, though, and teams have been able to score three or four runs off him in four of his six starts. He’s been able to avoid complete disasters of outings, having not allowed more than four runs in any start, but he hasn’t had the standout outings you’d expect from someone with his peripherals. The Red Sox actually handed him his worst start of the year by Game Score back in August when they scored four runs over four innings, though they did strike out eight times. Eflin features a low-to-mid-90s sinker along with a slider and a curveball.

9/8: TBD vs. Vince Velasquez, ~7:10 PM ET

The Red Sox have yet to announce their plans for the second game of this doubleheader. My guess would be that they go with a bullpen game with Mike Kickham trying to get them three innings if possible, but that is also probably dependent on what Pérez does in the first game. It’s also possible they’ll have someone from the alternate site who can pitch bulk innings up just in case they need to make a move between games.

Velasquez was once one of the more intriguing young arms in the game and came to the Phillies in the Ken Giles trade, but he’s never been able to put together the consistency necessary to reach his full potential. The stuff is certainly still there and he has a strikeout rate of 29 percent on the season, but his command is just all over the place. The righty has a walk rate of just about 16 percent this season. he’s sort of been a swingman this season, and with the Phillies missing so many games in the middle of the year they’ve had a ton of doubleheaders to try and make things up. That’s essentially become his role as the team has been trying to use him for four-ish innings in these seven-inning games. Look for the Red Sox to be patient here and force Velasquez to throw strikes. He will feature a mid-90s fastball along with a curveball and a changeup.

Old Friends

Brandon Workman was the first player traded by the Red Sox in this summer’s trade season, along with the other guy on this list. After a long run with the organization that included a pair of championships and a long layoff between major-league stints, he was traded for Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold. We’ll get to his performance since the trade in a minute.

Heath Hembree was the other part of that trade. He’s not covered later, so I will tell you since the trade he has struggled mightily with command, somehow allowing five homers already despite throwing only five innings.

Notable Position Players

Bryce Harper has been every bit the lineup anchor the Phillies signed him to be. The right fielder is hitting for power while also walking more than he strikes out en route to a 145 wRC+ on the season.

J.T. Realmuto remains the best catcher in baseball and it’s amazing the Phillies haven’t signed him long-term yet despite his desire to do so. This season he has a 132 wRC+ while providing his typical above-average defense.

Rhys Hoskins has been the Phillies best hitter this year by wRC+, edging out Harper with a mark of 153. He’s been particularly hot of late, and after going the first few weeks of the year without a homer he’s up to nine thanks to his recent hot streak.

Andrew McCutchen has struggled in this shortened season, showing good plate discipline but struggling to hit the ball with authority.

Didi Gregorius isn’t converting balls in play into hits at the rate he wants, but he’s staying average overall at the plate thanks to solid power and a low strikeout rate.

Jean Segura has been heating up of late and will show off great plate discipline while also surprising at times with his pop.

Alec Bohm is one of the Phillies top prospects, and while he’s been solid to start his career we’re still waiting for him to tap into his big-time power.

Neil Walker was recently thrust into a bigger role thanks to injury, but he’s been brutal in just about every area this season.

Adam Haseley isn’t going to hit for much power and he strikes out a bit more than you’d like, but he’s had a solid season thanks to his on-base skills.

Bullpen Snapshot

Workman immediately became the Phillies closer after the trade, and he’s already had his ups and downs. The good news is he’s getting chances, having already made more appearances and thrown more innings with the Phillies than he did with the Red Sox. He’s also looking much better of late after a handful of shaky outings to start his career with the Phillies.

Héctor Neris and David Phelps are the top two set-up arms in the Phillies bullpen. Neris started the year as the closer but some bad BABIP luck and hard contact took him out of the role. Phelps was another deadline acquisition and he’s been hurt by the long ball in a very small sample since the deal.

JoJo Romero was just recently called up but he’s the most talented lefty in this bullpen with some impressive strikeout stuff.

Injuries

Jay Bruce missed some time with an oblique strain, came back and then immediately tweaked it again over the weekend.

Seranthony Dominguez underwent Tommy John surgery in late July and could be out until 2022 after waiting so long for the surgery.

Scott Kingery went down with a back injury in late August after struggling for most of the season. His timetable is unclear.

Roman Quinn hit the seven-day concussion IL over the weekend. It’s not yet clear when he’ll be able to return.

David Robertson had been hoping to return late this year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but a setback will prevent that from happening.

José Alvarez was hit in the groin by a line drive and should be back at some point in the next week or two.

Adam Morgan was put on the IL with shoulder fatigue, and his timetable to return is unclear.

Weather Forecast

It should be a very nice day in Philadelphia for a couple of baseball games.