Series Preview: Phillies Travel to San Diego for 3-Game Set

Bryce Harper Phillies
Philadelphia Phillies’ Bryce Harper reacts after hitting an RBI-sacrifice flay against Chicago White Sox pitcher Tanner Banks during the fourth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Philadelphia is one of the hottest teams in baseball at the moment, and they are bringing some extra heat from the Midwest to the far west as they get set for a three-game weekend series against the San Diego Padres.

Philly is 8-2 in their last 10 games, a rate only matched by 3 other clubs at the moment (Braves, Guardians, Orioles). The Phillies are coming off a split against the Reds and have not lost a series since their final game against the Cardinals on April 3.

The Padres also split a four-game against the Rockies, and are looking to get back to their winning ways at home after dropping a home series against the Blue Jays before their quick trip to Colorado.

Turner Phillies
Philadelphia Phillies’ Trea Turner follows through after hitting a run-scoring single against Chicago White Sox pitcher Nick Nastrini during the fourth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Pitching matchups

Friday night will see the Phillies Aaron Nola (3-1, 3.16 ERA) take the hill opposite the Padres one-time ace, Joe Musgrove (3-2, 5.74 ERA). Nola and Musgrove both have strong numbers against the opposing club during the regular season. Nola with a 3.11 ERA in 8 starts against San Diego and Musgrove with a 3.00 in 5 appearances (4 starts). However, each team has gotten to tonight’s starter in the playoffs – both during the 2022 NLCS – for what might be each of their worst starts in their postseason.

Musgrove has had success against everyone in Philadelphia’s lineup that he’s seen regularly. The only person who has truly gotten to him is Nick Castellanos (.278 average, .778 OPS in 18 ABs). Casty’s overall numbers look like he is struggling, but he has started to put together more consistent at-bats as of late and facing someone he has performed against could help him break out over the weekend.

Nola has not faced much of the lineup SD will trot out, and those he has faced have been minimal. He has handled the big threats – Xander Bogaerts, Manny Machado, and Fernando Tatis Jr. – to a combined 3-for-28 (.107 avg) in his career.

Saturday afternoon (night on the East Coast) will see Ranger Suárez (4-0, 1.36 ERA) take on off-season addition Dylan Cease (3-1, 1.82 ERA) in what should be a pitcher’s duel. Suárez has 2 starts and 3 relief appearances against the Padres in his career and has pitched well, to the tune of a 2.65 ERA over 17 innings. During the 2022 NLCS, Suarez earned the win in game 3 for the Phillies and came back in game 5 to lock down a 2-out save.

Philadelphia Phillies’ Aaron Nola pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox, Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Cease has not yet faced the Phillies in his career after spending his career in the AL Central prior to 2024, but he has seen a few Philly players and mostly handled them with ease. One to watch, however, is Kyle Schwarber. The Phillies DH has 2 home runs in 5 at-bats against Cease and has 7 bombs at Petco during his career. In a game with 2 pitchers in the top 5 in ERA in the National League, he seems like the difference maker.

Sunday’s finale will be the season debut for Taijuan Walker. The right-hander will throw opposite Michael King (2-2, 4.11 ERA) who was acquired from the Yankees as part of the Juan Soto trade this past off-season. 2024 is King’s first season as a full-time starter in the majors. His one appearance against Philadelphia came in April of last year. He went 1.1 innings and allowed 4 hits, but was able to prevent runs from crossing. Walker has pitched well against the Fathers in his career, with a 3.00 ERA over 9 starts.

His 5 starts in San Diego have been a little worse than when he’s home, and a few of their hitters have gotten to him – Tatis Jr. and Profar both have 2 HR a piece and are hitting a combined 8-for-20 against Walker. Expect Taijuan to have a shorter outing – he was built up during his rehab, but Rob Thomson will want him to build confidence. With his velocity down so far, they will likely limit his exposure in his first appearance.

Importance for the Phillies

This early season series may end up being important, as both the Phillies and Padres are trying to stay close to who many consider to be the two best teams in the National League.

Schwarber’s success at Petco Park and Harper’s return from paternity will look to match the exciting Padres lineup that will have some dad-boosted power of their own as Machado will be returning from the paternity list himself, just as Harper did a few days ago.

Philadelphia’s pitching staff has a shakeup with Walker’s return – the question now is can they maintain their recent dominance against a strong lineup like San Diego’s.

Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)