After an impressive series win against the American League’s best Baltimore Orioles, the Phillies head across the state to challenge the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Phillies have had success in recent years against the Pirates, going 6-1 against them last season and 5-2 the year prior.
A four-game series sweep in Pittsburgh last season was huge for the Phillies, and they could really benefit from a series win this weekend.
Tale of Two Cities
Pittsburgh was one of the best teams in baseball to start the season. The Pirates had shocked baseball but quickly fell back to Earth. On the other side of the state, the Phillies got off to a cold start, but have heated up with the summer months.
These are two teams that are heading in opposite directions as the Major League Baseball trade deadline approaches. With the Pirates expected to sell and the Phillies expected to buy.
Former Phillie and veteran first baseman Carlos Santana was dealt from the Pirates earlier in the week. The club may deal more players this weekend, which in theory, would make things a little easier for the Phillies.
Players to Watch For
One of the reasons that the Pirates believe they are a year away from being competitive is the success of Jack Suwinski.
Suwinski is a 24-year-old outfielder who has some serious pop in his bat. Jack is slugging .507 on the season with a .855 OPS and leads the Pirates in home runs.
In his approach, he is similar to Kyle Schwaber, as he looks to crush the ball every time he steps to the plate. He hits for a low average, but like Schwarber, he makes it count when he gets a hit.
Another player to watch out for is Friday night’s starter, Mitch Keller.
The Pirates’ young ace has been one of their best prospects in recent seasons, and he has really blossomed this season.
Keller was an All-Star for Pittsburgh this season and has his career-best 9.6 strikeouts per nine. While he has an ERA slightly over 4 (4.01), but he gets batters out, which will provide a challenge for the Phillies.
Phillies and the Playoff Picture
The Phillies currently sit in 5th place in the National League, tied with the Cincinnati Reds in terms of their record.
With the series tiebreaker over the Reds, the Phils earn the second Wild Card spot, which would currently see them traveling to San Francisco to face the Giants in a playoff round.
The Phillies have a half-game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks and Miami Marlins. They hold a 4-game lead over the Cubs and a 6.5-game lead over the Padres.
While they need to win plenty more games to feel comfortable, the Phillies have a lighter schedule coming up. 3 with the Pirates, 4 with the Marlins, 3 with the Royals, and 3 with the Nationals.
If the Phils can go 9-4 in this stretch, they could really see themselves earning some ground in the Wild Card standings.
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Derik Hamilton