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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Phillies series preview

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The Phillies have been a contender this year, but have slipped lately. Can the Cubs take advantage of that?

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies have a popular former Cub, Jake Arrieta, in their starting rotation.

The Cubs have a popular former Phillie, Cole Hamels, in their starting rotation.

Unfortunately for “narrative,” neither one of those men will pitch in this series. This will be Hamels’ first trip back to Citizens Bank Park since he was traded from the Phillies to the Rangers in 2015, so I’d expect him to get a warm welcome from Phillies fans.

For more on the Phillies, as always I turn the rest of this space over to Liz Roscher, manager of our SB Nation Phillies site The Good Phight. This might be the most awesome of Liz’s awesome contributions here, so fasten your seat belt!


::head pokes out from under a literal heap of negative comments about the Phillies::

Oh, hi there! It’s always nice to see you BCB folks. Everything is fine here in Phillies land, totally and entirely fine. This pile of negative comments is normal and good and everything is thoroughly okay.

Have I convinced you yet? Yeah, me either.

Things have been unraveling a bit for the Phillies, which is great news for Cubs fans. Your team is facing the Phillies at a very sensitive and difficult time: the players and fans are all remembering “oh, these guys are young and still a little green and they were never supposed to be this good in 2018 and maybe we all got too excited for that month they were in first place.” Yeah, it’s not a good time right now. The Phillies almost got swept by the Nationals. THE NATIONALS. A week ago the Nats waved the white flag and shipped Daniel Murphy to the Cubs (thanks for that, by the way, at least he’s out of the NL East now). And over two series, the Phillies won just two of six games against them. Embarrassing is a word I could use to describe that. Or mortifying. Or... well, you get the picture.

So let’s take a look at the plummeting-back-to-Earth Phillies. And the first thing you’ll probably notice is that at least a few of them are playing out of position. Cool fact: that’s been happening all year! Scott Kingery has been at shortstop, but he’s a natural second baseman. Rhys Hoskins is in left field, and he is not a left fielder but a first baseman, and no amount of time spent in left field will convince me otherwise. Asdrubal Cabrera has been taking reps at third and short, two places where he spent almost zero time earlier in 2018. With all those guys playing out of position, it may (not) shock you to find out that defense has become a major issue for the Phillies this year. It’s cost your friend Jake Arrieta dearly, since he’s become a ground ball pitcher to deal with lessening velocity.

The defense wouldn’t be such an issue if the offense was there. It’s been missing, most likely at a bar somewhere having a beer and watching the Phillies game before going “Oh crap, I should have been there two hours ago!” Yes you should have, Phillies offense. Odubel Herrera is having a dreadful season, which is a huge bummer. After hitting .361 through mid May, he’s hit .227 since. Cesar Hernandez, who was a solid, unstoppable force of decent numbers at second base, has been slumping nearly all year. Scott Kingery, the elfin faced not-shortstop, has been pretty putrid. And to fix those woes, the Phillies signed Wilson Ramos, who has been doing well. And then there are the other dudes they signed. Justin Bour got hurt after his first truly good game. Jose Bautista has been on the team for a hot second but I’m wondering why he was acquired at all since he’s barely cracked .200 all year. And Cabrera just sucks. Like a massive outer space black hole. Dude is the Bermuda Triangle of baseball players.

Lest you think there are no good things for me to talk about. Maikel Franco, who seemed like he was on his way out in late July, has had a huge comeback season. He’s looking like the player he was in his first half-season with the Phillies. But, due to the playing time/position ridiculousness I mentioned above, you may only see him for one game. Ramos, who the Phillies recently acquired, is the only player currently sporting an average above .300, though that’s overall and not with the Phillies. Regardless, he’s actually been hitting for the Phillies, a novel concept that I’m sure the manager and coaches all hope will catch on with the other whippersnappers in the clubhouse. Outfielder Nick Williams, who is so good looking that he actually looks kinda weird, has been making actual, measurable improvements this year, and it’s a delight. Hector Neris, the reliever who had an ERA of 6.90 (in 33 appearances!!) before he was mercifully sent down to Triple-A, is back and better than ever. He hasn’t allowed a run in nine outings since being recalled, and now that I’ve said that, I’m sure he’ll give up a game-winning grand slam sometime this weekend, so you’re welcome.

And then there’s Aaron Nola, who is now pitching on Sunday. I could write a soliloquy about Aaron Nola. An epic poem. A story song about his best pitches. But instead, I’m going to make you watch him. Assuming that since you’ve started reading this post, you’re not allowed to stop until you’ve read the whole thing. That’s how this whole website thing works, right? DON’T CARE JUST WATCH.

Eat your heart out, Cubs fans. He’s ours and you can’t have him! And please let me lord this over you since I don’t think that mentioning the Cole Hamels no-hitter has any power over you anymore because he’s on your team, just let me have this please.

Beyond Aaron Nola starting on Sunday, there’s one other silver lining to this series for me and me alone. (I don’t presume to speak for other Phillies fans on this.) The Phillies avoiding facing Cole Hamels, who would be pitching in his former home park while wearing a Cubs uniform, means I will get to live beyond this series. Because there is absolutely no way I could handle that. I was fine with him going to the Rangers because they’re an AL team and the Phillies rarely faced them. I never really had to get used to seeing Hamels play for a different team. But now Hamels is back in the NL and looking like vintage, amazing Cole Hamels and when I’m not yelling into the void about how THE PHILLIES COULD HAVE HAD HIM, GREAT JOB FRONT OFFICE, I’m worrying about the Phillies facing him in a playoff start. (Though lately, I haven’t really worried about that much. Hm, wonder why?!)

I love Cole Hamels. Treat him with care. Love him like one of your own. Because if you don’t, YOU WILL HEAR FROM ME. I’m just going to assume you’re all shaking in your boots about that.


Fun fact

The Phillies were in first place August 5, 1½ games ahead. Since then they are 8-14. In that same time frame, the Cubs are 15-7.

Pitching matchups

Friday: Jose Quintana, LHP (11-9, 4.33 ERA, 1.385 WHIP, 4.74 FIP) vs. Nick Pivetta, RHP (7-10, 4.76 ERA, 1.294 WHIP, 3.61 FIP)

Saturday: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (10-10, 3.86 ERA, 1.204 WHIP, 4.00 FIP) vs. Zach Eflin, RHP (9-5, 3.99 ERA, 1.245 WHIP, 3.82 FIP)

Sunday: Jon Lester, LHP (14-5, 3.67 ERA, 1.322 WHIP, 4.78 FIP) vs. Aaron Nola, RHP (15-3, 2.10 ERA, 0.966 WHIP, 2.62 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Friday: 6:05 p.m. CT, NBC Sports Chicago Plus, MLB Network (outside Chicago and Philadelphia markets)

Saturday: 6:05 p.m. CT, NBC Sports Chicago

Sunday: 12:35 p.m. CT, WGN, TBS (outside Chicago market)

Prediction

This one won’t be easy. The Phillies have some pretty good starting pitchers and Nola is a Cy Young candidate.

Nevertheless, the Phillies have had trouble with LH starters this year (16-15) and have a lower OPS (.684) vs. LHP than RHP (.725).

So I’m going to go with the Cubs taking two of three.

Up next

The Cubs travel to Milwaukee for a three-game series against the Brewers beginning Monday afternoon.

Poll

How many games will the Cubs win against the Phillies?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    3
    (33 votes)
  • 66%
    2
    (152 votes)
  • 16%
    1
    (38 votes)
  • 3%
    0
    (7 votes)
230 votes total Vote Now