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Red Sox vs. Phillies Series Preview

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A look at the last series before the All-Star Break

Philadelphia Phillies v Chicago Cubs Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

SB Nation Blog

The Good Phight

The opponent in one sentence

The Phillies have been all over the place this year and have continued finding new and creative ways to lose, but amid all that they are still hovering around .500 and in second place in their division.

Record

42-43

Head-to-head record

Red Sox 2, Phillies 1

Trend

Up. The Phillies seemed to be hitting their rock bottom in the middle of June, but since then they have recovered and at least put themselves in a position to wait out the month of July before deciding their direction. They’ve earned at least a split in each of their last four series, and overall they’ve won five of their last seven.

Pitching Matchups

7/9: Garrett Richards vs. Vince Velasquez, 7:10 PM ET

The most interesting in the Red Sox rotation right now could possibly be Richards, which is certainly not the same as saying the best. On the one hand, the stuff is still markedly down since the banishment of sticky stuff, even more so than most pitchers around the league. On the other hand, he’s leaned on a little bit of a different approach, and he’s had some solid outings. His last time out was pretty good and he finished out the start before that with a few good innings. Personally, I’m still holding my breath every time the veteran comes to the mound, because the command is still a little rough and without his best stuff he’s liable to be hit around. But he keeps getting to the precipice of being tossed aside before turning things around long enough to buy him a few more chances. It’s a cycle, and he appears to be in the turning things around portion of it right now.

Boston Red Sox v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Velasquez was once a fairly well-regarded prospect with big-time stuff, but he’s never really been able to put things together as a starting pitcher. The Phillies are continuing to use him in that role, however, at least partially out of need. And this year, well, he’s been mediocre as usual. The potential is always there for him to shut down any lineup, and he’s continuing to strike out opponents at a nice clip this year. Despite that, the ERA is sitting in the mid-4.00’s, and his walk rate is still much too high. Look for the Red Sox to be patient early and force him to come back into the zone. Boston saw him out of the bullpen earlier this year, striking out three times in 1 13 scoreless innings. Velasquez will feature a fastball that sits in the 92-95 range along with a curveball, changeup, and slider.

7/10: Martín Pérez vs. Matt Moore, 4:10 PM ET

Pérez is in the midst of yet another strong run in this continually surprising campaign, allowing one or fewer earned runs in three of his last four starts, with the other seeing two earned runs coming against him. The southpaw has a 1.86 ERA during this little run, though it’s a little hard to see how it’s happening. Neither his strikeout nor walk rates seem great, and he’s giving up a ton of hits. Somehow, he continues to work around trouble, and Alex Cora has done a very good job at knowing when to pull his back-end starter from games. Pérez has not recorded more than 16 outs in a game since June 3, and with the All-Star break just a day away after this game, I’d expect that trend to continue here as well. Against the Phillies back in May, Pérez allowed three runs over six innings of work.

It seems crazy to think about now, but about a decade ago Moore was right alongside Mike Trout and now-teammate Bryce Harper in a triumvirate of elite prospects coming of age at the same time. The lefty’s career has not progressed the way things have for the other two, instead being something of a journeyman over the last few years. This is his first with the Phillies, and he’s had a tough time on the season splitting duties between the rotation and bullpen. He just doesn’t have the stuff to make up for what he lacks in command, and it shows with his 5.60 ERA. That said, he has allow two runs over nine innings in his last two starts, so he does come in on a bit of a roll. Moore will feature a low-90s fastball to go with a changeup and a curveball.

7/11: Nick Pivetta vs. Aaron Nola, 1:10 PM ET

Pivetta didn’t get a chance to pitch against his former team earlier this year when these two squads faced off, but he’ll get his chance at revenge here on Sunday in the final game before the All-Star break. The righty has certainly looked better than he did in his last few seasons in Philly, but there have still been some inconsistencies. Two starts ago, he allowed three home runs to the Royals — the second time in June he had an outing that featured at least three balls leaving the park — but then last time out he tossed seven shutout innings in Oakland with 10 strikeouts and only two walks. Overall it’s been a very encouraging season, and there would be no better way for him to finish off this first half than by sticking it to the team that basically gave up on him.

On the other side, the Red Sox are going up against a guy who should be a co-ace on this Phillies staff, though the numbers don’t reflect that at the moment. A former top 10 pick, the righty came into this season as one of the most consistent pitchers in the game, but he's having a tough start to his 2021, at least by the results. Nola is currently sitting with a 4.53 ERA that is fairly significantly worse than league-average, but his 3.47 FIP tells a much different story. Still, the hits are adding up and he’s going through his worst stretch of the season right now. Over his last four starts, he has pitched to an 8.35 ERA despite striking out 32 and walking only five over 18 13 innings. The Red Sox should be looking to jump on pitches over the middle of the plate early and often. They did a solid job of that last time out, scoring five runs (four earned) over five innings despite striking out nine times and walking only once. Nola will offer a pair of low-90s fastballs to go with a changeup and a curveball.

Boston Red Sox v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Old Friends

None.

Notable Position Players

Bryce Harper is the face of this Phillies franchise after signing his monster contract a couple winters ago, and he’s once again having a stellar season at the plate. Thanks to elite power and patience, he has a 144 wRC+ that, for context, is just a shade behind Xander Bogaerts and a shade ahead of Rafael Devers and J.D. Martinez.

J.T. Realmuto got a big contract himself last winter, re-signing in Philly, and he’s keeping up his end of the deal with another nice season. He’s putting up a 122 wRC+, which for a catcher who can play defense like him is just about as good as it gets.

Andrew McCutchen is having something of a renaissance of sorts this season after a disappointing 2020 and missed time in 2019. He’s being hurt by a low BABIP, but his patience and power are making up for it.

Rhys Hoskins will swing and miss a bunch and not really hit many singles, but the man is a threat to go deep each and every time he steps to the dish.

Jean Segura hits atop this Phillies lineup and he’s had a good year with his contact-oriented approach being combined with a high BABIP.

Alec Bohm came into the year with some big expectations after a strong showing in 2020, but the power hasn’t been there and his contributions have been near-nothing.

Didi Gregorius is struggling to capture some of the magic from his Yankees days this year, striking out a bit more than is typical for him and combining that with poor batted ball luck.

Odúbel Herrera was suspended back in 2019 for a domestic violence incident in which he allegedly assaulted his girlfriend, but he’s back in the Phillies lineup now, much to the dismay of many of their fans. On the field, he’s been struggling to get things going lately.

Bullpen Snapshot

José Alvarado is a name many likely remember from his days with the Rays, but he’s taken a late-inning role with the Phillies this year after an offseason trade last winter. His stuff from the left side is still about as good as it gets, but his control issues will get him into trouble.

Archie Bradley looked like one of steals of the offseason, but while he’s put up solid results this year the peripherals look like a guy who is about to fall off a cliff in terms of production.

Ranger Suárez has been dominant this season, pitching to an ERA under 1.00 thanks to solid stuff and an elite ability to induce ground balls.

Injuries

Seranthony Dominguez underwent Tommy John surgery about a year ago, and it’s still not clear when, or even if, he’ll be pitching this season.

Sam Coonrod just recently went down with some forearm issues, but the hope is he’ll be back in a few weeks.

Matt Joyce hit the injured list in mid-June with some back issues, and there hasn’t been much word on him since.

Roman Quinn ruptured his Achilles tendon at the end of May, and the injury will keep him off the field the rest of the year.

JoJo Romero underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this season and will miss the rest of the year.

Chase Anderson was taken off the COVID list in early June, but then put back on a couple days later and has been there since. It’s not totally clear what’s going on here.

Weather Forecast

Tropical Storm Elsa is coming through Boston as we speak, but it does look like it should taper off enough by game time to get through Friday’s game. There is also rain in the forecast on Saturday, but again it seems as though there should be no issues. Sunday looks perfect.


A big thank you to FanGraphs, and particularly their Roster Resource tool, as well as Baseball Savant for research.