The Battle of Pennslyvania begins on Thursday night as the Phillies head to Pittsburgh to take on the Pirates. Pittsburgh has been brutal this season, sitting with a 40-58 record on the year.
When kicking off the start of the second half and writing the Phillies-Cubs preview, I mentioned that the Phillies needed to go 7-3 in their next ten games to prove they were a legitimate playoff team.
Following that proclamation, the Phillies would go on to be swept at home by Chicago, one of the worst teams in baseball. They would then host the Atlanta Braves, one of the hottest teams in baseball. They took two of three in typical Phillies fashion to win the series. This leaves a four-game set with the Pirates to finish out the 10-game stretch that was mentioned. As it stands, the Phillies have gone 2-4 in their first six games. If they wish even to break .500 in this stretch, they will need to sweep out the Pirates on the road.
Phillies need to keep it moving
The Phillies have seemingly recreated some momentum following their series win against the Atlanta Braves. They must stay hot and carry their offense into this upcoming series against Pittsburgh. They cannot afford to take the Pirates lightly, precisely what they did against the Cubs last weekend. The team will be favored in every game and should at least take three of four. A sweep would be massive for the team and could potentially put them eight games above .500.
Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola will bookend this series, starting on Thursday and Sunday, respectively. With their aces on the mound, there will be no excuse for the Phillies to lose these two games. Playoff teams should beat bad teams when their aces take the bump, and the Phillies are not good enough to be excused from the rule.
The offense has finally started to pick it back up. Alec Bohm has been on an absolute tear and has carried the offense for the last two weeks. He has been moved into the 3-hole for the first game of the Pittsburgh series. Bryson Stott and Darick Hall have produced in their opportunities as well. Stott’s game-winner on Monday night will overshadow his growth over the last few months, but his steady improvement at the plate has been nice to see.
JT Realmuto has seemingly turned a corner following his drama surrounding the Blue Jays series. JT looks more like the best catcher in baseball once again. His clutch hitting with runners in scoring position has recently been huge for the Phillies offense.
The Pittsburgh Pirates will be one of the many teams selling at this year’s trade deadline. The Phils will be one of the teams that will buy before their August 2nd deadline ends. The road side will have a front-row seat to watch several Pittsburgh Pirates, which the team may be interested in acquiring.
David Bednar will be the big name to watch. The Pirates’ All-Star closer is one of, if not the best reliever on the market this summer. Bednar has a 2.76 earned run average in 39 games this season. He has 17 saves with the Pirates and 61 strikeouts in 45.2 innings pitched. The Phillies bullpen has improved drastically as of late, but the team should not leave any stone unturned in their quest for the playoffs.
Bryan Reynolds could be another person of interest in watching this series. Reynolds is a former All-Star centerfield who is a high-contact hitter. He fits many of the Phillies’ needs as he can play center, hit for average with a mix of power, as well as provide lineup flexibility as a switch hitter.
David Bednar and/or Bryan Reynolds would come at a cost, but their talent is undeniable. The Phillies could make a deal with Pittsburgh this weekend for any number of their players. The Phillies need to have a big weekend against the state rival. The Phillies have a chance to make up some ground on the Padres and separate themselves from the Cardinals in the Wild Card hunt. At the very least, beating a bad team has to be taken care of when you face them. The journey to October baseball will become a pipe dream if the Phillies cannot dominate the teams at the bottom of the league.
AP Photo/Matt Slocum