Series Preview: Phillies head to Arizona to face the Snakes

Philadelphia Phillies’ Kyle Schwarber (12) celebrates after his grand slam off of Chicago Cubs’ Jameson Taillon (not shown) with Nick Castellanos, left, Bryson Stott (5) and Bryce Harper (3) during the first inning of a baseball game, Saturday, May 20, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Are the Phillies back?

After winning seven of their last eight games, the Phillies finally seem to be playing better baseball. The club had an extremely productive homestand, going 5-1 against the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers and improving their record to 32-33.

While the Phillies certainly have a lot of work to do if they want to make the postseason again and defend their National League crown, they are finally heading down the right path. They face another challenge against the Arizona Diamondbacks, in a four-game series to kick off a seven-game road trip.

The D-Backs took 2 of 3 in Philadelphia earlier in the season, so the Phillies will have to get them back in their own home this time around.

Out of Nowhere

Diamondbacks are a surprisingly tough opponent for the Phillies

Nobody could have told me that the Arizona Diamondbacks would be 15 games above the .500 mark and in first place of the National League West before this season started.

The D-Backs have exploded to start 2023 and they have carried their hot start into June. Arizona has benefitted from young prospects making an impact, while also having their starting rotation really shine. Starter Zac Gallen, who won’t pitch in this series, is a Cy Young favorite this season and has carried Arizona’s rotation.

Rookie outfielder Corbin Carroll has also shined, batting .308 with an .968 OPS. He most likely going to be an All-Star this season and has a great chance of winning Rookie of the Year.

Arizona can beat you in a multitude of ways but their strength comes late in games. They are one of the best teams in baseball in scoring runs between the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings. They often feast on bullpens and in their last series, they feasted on the Detroit Tigers relievers.

The Phillies’s strength is in their bullpen. They just added back Jose Alvarado, which reunites their core four of Alvarado, Kimbrel, Soto, and Dominguez. All four of those guys will need to be on their A-Game in this series if the Phillies want to finally have a good road trip.

Phillies Trea Turner
Philadelphia Phillies’ Trea Turner follows through after hitting a home run against Detroit Tigers pitcher Joey Wentz during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Monday, June 5, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Turning it Around

Trea Turner is starting to play like Trea Turner.

The Phillies shortstop is coming off a great homestand and raised his batting average 16 points over his last six games. He is hitting .248 on the season, which is very unlike Trea, but with his recent turnaround, I would expect that number to inflate.

Turner has been more of the player the Phillies had hoped for when signing him this off-season. He is hitting the ball hard and all around the park, he is making good defensive plays at shortstop, and he is starting to swipe more bases.

If this Trea Turner shows up in Arizona, he singlehandedly is capable of carrying the Phillies offense. Pair that with a red-hot Nick Castellanos, June-Schwarber, and a resurgent Bryce Harper, and all of a sudden the Phillies offense could keep the ball rolling.

If they want to at least split this series, they must take advantage of the inexperienced starters that Arizona will throw and the Phillies must score runs against their bullpen. The ‘pen is a weakness for the D-Backs, and the Phillies can take advantage of that in this series.

Pitching Matchups

Matt Strahm (4-3, 3.61 ERA) vs Tommy Henry (3-1, 4.37 ERA)

Zack Wheeler (4-4, 3.91 ERA) vs Zach Davies (1-1, 4.68 ERA)

Ranger Suarez (1-2, 4.70 ERA) vs Merrill Kelly (8-3, 2.92 ERA)

Aaron Nola (5-5, 4.60 ERA) vs Ryne Nelson (3-3, 4.95 ERA)

The Phillies will have the pitching advantage in two of these games. Game 2 with Zack Wheeler and Game 4 with Aaron Nola. The Phillies are running a bullpen game Monday night and Ranger Suarez will have to face Merill Kelly, who is having the best season of his career.

As previously mentioned, the Phillies will miss Zac Gallen in this series. The rest of the Diamondbacks rotation is formidable, but by no means untouchable.

Our two aces are going to need to deliver victories in their starts. By shutting down a hot D-Backs’ lineup, they could put the Phillies in a position to win those games.

In order to win or at least split this series, the Phillies will have to play their best brand of baseball. Arizona is a good team and they will not roll over under any circumstance.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Matt Rourke