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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Phillies series preview

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The Phillies have sort-of contended this year.

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As they did in 2018, the Phillies got off to a hot start in 2019, inhabited first place for much of the early part of the year, then struggled to hang on to contention as the season reached late August.

This is where we find them as the Cubs meet them in a three-game series. For more on the Phillies, here’s Justin Klugh, who runs our SB Nation Phillies site The Good Phight.

The Phillies have not played a lot of games this year as the team they were supposed to be. On August 5, they played a game against the Diamondbacks in which they appeared, for a brief moment, to be that team: Cesar Hernandez led off with a single, Rhys Hoskins worked a walk, and Bryce Harper smashed a bomb that, sadly, Chase Field was able to hold, but would have been gone at Citizens Bank Park. Instead, we’re looking at a team that has been defined by letdowns and drop-offs. We’ve seen a Scott Kingery hot streak here, a Maikel Franco power reservoir there, but nothing is working the way it was designed to — and now Kingery is hitting .243 in the second half and Franco got DFA’d to the minors.

Unlike previous seasons, when the teams just weren’t supposed to be good, this time we knew the talent level had spiked, but the results are still pretty much the same. There’s a reason nobody’s content with the repeated mentions of the Phillies’ wild card contention — because they were in first place in the NL East from April 26 to June 9, by as much as 3½ games, and since falling out of that spot, they have not looked like the type of team that could cling to a tight wild card lead with several weeks left to play. But they should be! This team should have upgraded its pitching staff in January instead of throwing Jason Vargas into the mix in July. This offense should be able to lean on a 3-4-5 of Bryce Harper - Rhys Hoskins - J.T. Realmuto. This team shouldn’t have to rely on an emaciated bullpen managed by someone who at times seems illiterate in its use.

One thing I’ve struggled with this season is that I don’t know who this team is, both because of their baffling inability to be better, and their identity as a team. The Phillies are desperate, in my view, to market this team. But they aren’t getting much to work with, both as technical contenders down the homestretch (their hottest win streak of the season is 4) and through public perception (Gabe Kapler’s clubhouse only emits one of two things: Utter silence, or decoratively verbalized statements from Kapler). After that August 5 game, the news of the day was that Harper had shaved his beard. That’s kind of where we are right now. Oh, and losing the Phanatic is now somehow on the table? So that’s pretty devastating.

It just makes me wonder why, since last year, the Phillies have produced teams that look promising on paper, yet somehow feel like at any moment they are on the cusp of utter disaster. They have done nothing to prove they are a team that can hang with the league’s best, or hang with the rest of the teams in the wild card hunt, or even hang with the White Sox. Maybe I’m just an inherently negative person. Or maybe there’s something to hear in the silence.

That was all written before this Phillies announcement earlier Monday:

Translation: The Phillies rank ninth in the N.L. in runs and 11th in home runs, so the hitting coach has to take the fall.

Fun fact

The Phillies have already had 11 different pitchers start a game for them this year. Their top five starters in games started have a total of 97 games. (The Cubs have used eight different starters in 2019, and they have started 110 of the Cubs’ 118 games.)

Pitching matchups

Tuesday: Jose Quintana, LHP (10-7, 4.23 ERA, 1.296 WHIP, 3.93 FIP) vs. Jason Vargas, LHP (6-6, 4.09 ERA, 1.259 WHIP, 4.72 FIP overall; 0-1, 4.76 ERA, 1.147 WHIP, 4.89 FIP in two starts with the Phillies)

Wednesday: Cole Hamels, LHP (6-3, 3.09 ERA, 1.245 WHIP, 3.58 FIP) vs. Aaron Nola, RHP (10-3, 3.67 ERA, 1.290 WHIP, 4.11 FIP)

Thursday: Yu Darvish, RHP (4-6, 4.43 ERA, 1.189 WHIP, 4.74 FIP) vs. Drew Smyly, LHP (2-6, 6.96 ERA, 1.653 WHIP, 6.85 FIP overall; 1-1, 3.80 ERA, 1.099 WHIP, 4,27 FIP in four starts with the Phillies)

Times & TV channels

Tuesday: 6:05 p.m. CT, NBC Sports Chicago, MLB Network (outside the Cubs and Phillies market territories)

Wednesday: 6:05 p.m. CT, NBC Sports Chicago, ESPN (outside the Cubs and Phillies market territories)

Thursday: 6:05 p.m. CT, WGN, MLB Network (outside the Cubs and Phillies market territories)

Prediction

The Cubs recently got themselves a guy who mashes lefthanders in Nicholas Castellanos. He’ll be facing two guys in this series he should be able to hit, and hit hard. The rest of the team should be able to as well. Two of three.

Up next

The Cubs stay in Pennsylvania over the weekend. Friday and Saturday, they’ll be in Pittsburgh to take on the Pirates, then the clubs play Sunday night in Williamsport, PA in this year’s Little League Classic.

Poll

How many games will the Cubs win against the Phillies?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    3
    (69 votes)
  • 55%
    2
    (137 votes)
  • 13%
    1
    (34 votes)
  • 3%
    0
    (9 votes)
249 votes total Vote Now