Phillies Dodgers Series Preview: Philly after Dark

The upcoming stretch of Phillies baseball will tell us a lot. The NL East was once crowded, but now the Mets have a three-game lead over Philadelphia, who has a two-game lead over the third place Braves. Upcoming, Philly has three games against the reigning champion Dodgers, a three-game series against old friend Gabe Kapler and his giants, a two-game set back at home against the 2019 Champions in the Nationals, and then finally a four-game set against the currently division-leading Mets. If they carry their momentum through, and take care of business, they can emerge from that stretch with a division lead. If they fall victim to what’s plagued them all season, they’ll fall further into the hole they themselves created and find themselves clawing for a space in the wild card picture. With that out of the way, what's probably their hardest test comes first.

Stacked Lineup (and Team)

There was a reason the Dodgers were projected by some to have a chance at the all-time wins record this season. Now, they sit at a respectable 39-26, but their talent is undeniably ahead of where the Phillies are. First Baseman Max Muncy sports an on base percentage of .418 and an elite OPS. Justin Turner has 110 total bases. Will Smith is having another strong season behind the plate as a catcher as well as a hitter. Mookie Betts (a former MVP) has 2.6 WAR in only 57 games played. Cody Bellinger has struggled being in and out of the lineup but when he’s on, he’s an elite bat as well. Trevor Bauer is a reigning Cy Young winner, Clayton Kershaw is still aging well, and Walker Buehler has an ERA under 2.5. Basically, the Dodgers are a really good team (and you probably knew this).

But, It’s Not All Bad News

The Phillies have a chance to play a Dodgers team that isn’t the Death Star they are on paper. For starters, LA isn’t 100% healthy. Muncy, Seager and Bellinger’s statuses are all up in the air ahead of this series for one. The Dodgers slated starter for Monday night hasn’t even pitched two full innings this year. On the other hand, Spencer Howard is scheduled to start for the Phillies, but he’s seriously struggled with pitching more than three innings at a time. Zach Eflin will face Julio Urias in Game 2, in a matchup where neither pitcher is head and shoulder above the other. And when Kershaw takes the mound for Game 3, the Phillies will have their best player so far this year (Zack Wheeler) continuing his yearlong case for the second-best pitcher In the National League. Over his past 5 starts, Wheeler has struck out 56 (!) batters, and I don’t think I have to tell you how great that is. Even an injured Dodgers team is still very, very good and Philly needs to use every advantage they can get.

Phillies Bats need to do their Share

This year, the Dodgers team ERA is 5th across the MLB, but over the past 3 games that number has ballooned by almost one full run. Another advantage for the Phillies is that their offense is scoring runs without the long ball. In their two-game sweep of the Yankees, they scored 15 runs across 19 innings without a single homerun. In fact, the Phillies last home run was the Luke Williams walk off, the first of 3-consecutive walk off wins. All of this has been powered by the play of hopeful All-Star Jean Segura, who's hitting .424 with 8 RBIs in his past 8 games, and JT Realmuto is slugging .556 in that timeframe. Alec Bohm is also hitting north of .300 in his past 8 games, and scored 5 runs as well. Another note is that since becoming a Phillie, Bryce Harper is slashing .320/.379/.680 against LA, with three doubles and two home runs in 7 games. Getting stars to produce would majorly help the Phillies chances of surviving this series.

Closing with the Closers

In his last save opportunity, Hector Neris had a terrible outing, letting DJ LeMahieu hit a three-run game-tying home run that made life way harder than it needed to be. Archie Bradley had his best outing a Phillie later that game in the 10th, just shutting down the Yankees. I know one inning isn’t much, and Joe Girardi already said Neris will remain the closer, but another bad outing and I wouldn't be shocked if Bradley started coming out the bullpen in the ninth.

Game Start

This Philly-LA three game set takes place on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and because they're on the west coast, all three games start at 10:10 PM Eastern, which sucks if you want to watch the Phillies, but won't interfere with the Sixers, so that's nice.

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