The Phillies are coming off a somewhat decent series against the Marlins. Despite blowing multiple leads in the eighth inning, Philadelphia managed to overcome their track record against Miami to split the road series. Now sitting at a record of 25-26, the Phillies have a chance to eclipse the .500 mark again this season. However, with the Tampa Bay Rays (35-20) playing host this weekend, those chances are slim.
Despite the series only being a two-game set, the red pinstripes do have two of their top three pitchers on the mound. The Zack(h) duo will take the hill in both afternoon games.
First up is Zack Wheeler, who has been one of the best pitchers in the major leagues this season. Wheeler has thrown in at least seven innings in every start but one this season. He’s posted a 2.38 ERA/2.53 FIP/2.91 xFIP over 68.0 innings. His 29.7% strikeout rate is over 5% higher than any single season he’s had while his 5.3% walk rate would also set a new career-best mark.
The other half of the duo has made major strides forward as well. Zach Eflin will get the nod Sunday, where he will look to continue his success. He has gone at least six innings in every one of his starts this season. In these ten starts, the right-hander has posted a 3.84 ERA/2.89 FIP/3.19 xFIP. His strikeout rate is up to 24.4% while his walk rate is down to a minuscule 2.7%.
Tampa Bay also has their middle guys pitching during the weekend. First up, Ryan Yarbrough will match up against Wheeler on Saturday afternoon. Yarbrough has yet to win a game at Tropicana Field. His 4.71 ERA at home is inflated compared to his 4.27 season ERA. In his career against Philadelphia, Yarbrough has lost his only start among two total appearances, despite only allowing two earned runs.
The Rays pitcher for Sunday is still in the process of being determined. However, it’s rumored to be left-hander Josh Fleming. He’s been very good at home this season, starting in three games while appearing in five total, en route to a 2.22 home ERA. On the season, he has a 2.88 ERA in eight total appearances (four starts).
Phillies Get Good News
The Rays offense is really good. They are averaging 4.98 runs on the year, good for fifth overall in the MLB. However, strangely enough, the Phillies actually have a better team batting average (.234 compared to .232). However, Philadelphia is doing that with Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto, and Didi Gregorius.
Due to injuries, all three have been out recently. Brad Miller, Rhys Hoskins, and Ronald Torreyes have stepped up, however, this is likely not very sustainable. Even though Harper and Didi are still a ways away from returning, JT Realmuto was activated off the injured list this morning. Realmuto will reenter the lineup showcasing a .294 batting average and a .886 OPS.
Phillies Steal One
Call me crazy, call me an idiot, call me whatever, however I do think the Phillies steal a game this weekend. The Rays are among one of the best, if not the best, teams in the league. Don’t get me wrong, the Phillies are the inferior team this weekend, especially with the injuries in their lineup. This isn’t October of 2008 anymore.
However, the Phillies have done well in close games this season (10-8 record). Both the Rays and Phillies do most of their damage early in games, so if the Phillies can get off to a hot offensive start with Wheeler on the mound, Saturday could be up for grabs.
Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire