If you look back about two months ago, this title was nearly identical to a piece I wrote back in June. After rattling off eight straight wins, picking up back-to-back sweeps of the Nationals and Mets, the Philadelphia Phillies fell flat on their faces yet again. Losing back-to-back series to the Dodgers and Reds is not so bad until you see they were swept by the lowly Diamondbacks soon after. Luckily, the Phillies gained a bit of momentum after taking two of three from Fernando Tatis and the San Diego Padres.
The Phillies look to now ride this momentum into a quick series against the Tampa Bay Rays, quickly followed by a chance at redemption against Arizona.
The Phillies have a great chance to really capitalize and pick up two big wins here. First up, they have Ranger Suarez tonight. Suarez, who has become to ultimate pitching utility man, has been having a career season. Prior to his most recent start, the Phillies were 3-0 when Suarez started, where he earned a mere 0.90 ERA in 10 total innings pitched. He’s coming off his worst outing of the season, where he allowed three runs in 4.2 innings of work- which still isn’t awful.
Power Ranger will be followed up by Phillies Cy Young candidate, Zack Wheeler. Despite a rough start in his last outing, the right-hander is leading the entire MLB in innings pitched, complete games, complete-game shutouts, strikeouts, and batters faced. Wheeler has allowed ten total earned runs in his last two starts, but he’ll be in a prime position to rebound against the Rays, who rank in the bottom half of AL teams in team batting average.
In game one of this series, it will be hybrid pitcher vs. hybrid pitcher, as Suarez will square off against Drew Rasmussen. Rasmussen came over from the Milwaukee Brewers in a trade back in May and recently was turned into a starter after the Rays’ injured list began to pile up. The right-hander has seen success in four starts this season, whether as an “opener” or as the game’s actual starter. In those four games, he’s pitched 13 innings, allowing four runs on five hits.
Tampa’s pitcher for day two is still up in the air, as they are having guys return from the IL. However, if I had to take a guess, it would be Ryan Yarbrough. He last appeared on August 18, where he threw five scoreless innings against the Baltimore Orioles. The Phillies faced off against the Southpaw back in May, where he tossed 4.2 innings, allowing two runs on three hits.
Phillies Player to Watch
On a lesser note, it’s going to be super important to watch how Zack Wheeler rebounds. He’s struggled in his past two starts and has a chance to rebound against a lower-half-ranked hitting team.
On an offensive note, it’s also super important to see how the heart of the Phillies’ order responds to their struggles as well. With Rhys Hoskins returning with two dingers against the Padres on Sunday, the rest of the top of the lineup needs to respond as well. Bryce Harper is hitting .302 in 14 career games against the Rays. JT Realmuto has a career average of .242 against Tampa. Odubel Herrera has homered in back-to-back games to top off his .538 batting average in the last seven days.
It’s time to gain some ground back in the division, especially with the Braves facing the Yankees, then Giants, then the Dodgers.
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire